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Friday, April 20, 2018

Theme park.

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

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

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

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

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

Long division.

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

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

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

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

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

luv u,

jp

Friday, April 13, 2018

Old stock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minutes to midnight.

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

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

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

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

luv u,

jp

Friday, April 6, 2018

Monetizing sloth.

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

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

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

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

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

The other others.

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

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

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

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

luv u,

jp

Friday, March 30, 2018

Flying circus.

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

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

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

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

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

Our kind of guy.

In as much as it's the fifteenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and one of the war's principal architects/apologists is about to become National Security Advisor, I thought this might be a good time to take a look back at to what extent we have fucked the nation of Iraq beyond repair over the past six decades. Jeremy Scahill did a good look back on his podcast, Intercepted (see https://theintercept.com/2018/03/21/us-war-iraq-legacy-of-blood/ ), but there are a few items that I would like to pull out of that broader narrative, much of which I've talked about before, though it bears repeating in the current climate of fear.

CIA target Abdul Karim QasimFirst, we helped the thug/torturer Saddam Hussein from the earliest moment in his career, when in 1959 he made a botched attempt at becoming Iraq's Lee Harvey Oswald, taking a shot at the country's leader Qasim (who had taken power the year before after a coup against King Faisal). Hussein ran to Tikrit, then was spirited away to Beirut, where he lived on the CIA's dime, then to Cairo, where - again - he was a guest of the CIA. Qasim was a nationalist, socialist type, so we were glad to support the Ba'ath party takeover in 1963 and Hussein's subsequent rise to power.

Writing about the 1959 assassination attempt back in 2003, Richard Sale wrote:

According to another former senior State Department official, Saddam, while only in his early 20s, became a part of a U.S. plot to get rid of Qasim. According to this source, Saddam was installed in an apartment in Baghdad on al-Rashid Street directly opposite Qasim's office in Iraq's Ministry of Defense, to observe Qasim's movements.

Seems our intelligence agencies were always fixing Saddam up with a crash pad. Some years later, by the time of the Iran-Iraq war, the United States got very close with Saddam's regime. Again, Sale:

In the mid-1980s, Miles Copeland, a veteran CIA operative, told UPI the CIA had enjoyed "close ties" with [the] . . . ruling Baath Party, just as it had close connections with the intelligence service of Egyptian leader Gamel Abd Nassar. In a recent public statement, Roger Morris, a former National Security Council staffer in the 1970s, confirmed this claim, saying that the CIA had chosen the authoritarian and anti-communist Baath Party "as its instrument."

This was such a cozy relationship that during the tanker war between Iran and Iraq when the U.S. was re-flagging and escorting Kuwaiti tankers in the Persian Gulf, Iraq's mistaken attack against the U.S.S. Stark was essentially dismissed, much like the Liberty in 1967. (I always found it interesting that this fact was not deployed during the run-up to our 2003 invasion. It was simply too complicated a story to tell.)

So ... Saddam Hussein was our kind of thug. Until he disobeyed orders. More on the consequences of that transgression later.

luv u,

jp

Friday, March 23, 2018

Five gets you ten.

Remember those ridiculous glasses with the tiny black lenses? Sure you do. And those dumb ass purple sneakers. They were super easy to find because no one besides me wanted to wear them. (Oh, and you could find them in a dark room. I think they were radioactive.)

No, we haven't converted this into some kind of retro fashion blog. Far from it! We're just playing a game that's gotten kind of popular around the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. It's called Five and Ten. You guess what the other players were doing five years ago, then ten years ago, then fifteen, and so on. Every time you guess correctly, you get five points. The person with the most points by the time everyone has walked away in anger is the winner - they then have to go to the local strip mall and open a Five and Ten store. (The game's a little too complicated, in my humble opinion.)

I'm actually no fun to play against in this game, because if you ask me what I was doing five years ago, I would have to say that it's very much the same thing I'm doing right now. Same sort of thing with ten years ago. Now if you say twenty or thirty, I have intelligible answers to that. Twenty? We were working on our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, and I was starting to think about doing this blog. Okay, so that's MOSTLY like today. No points on that one.

Huh. Old Ben beat me to it.Thirty years ago, I was working for Donald Trump. (Or "Drumph," in the original Norwegian - Trump's family comes from that part of Norway that's called "Germany".) Well, I was a contractor for him in a sense, playing in a band that performed at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. I'm not certain, but I think around this time of year in 1988 I was playing the last of three month-long engagements we had at Trump Plaza, in one of the casino-side lounges, playing pretty horrible covers. My big song on that gig was Benny King's "Stand By Me". (The front person for that group was a singer named Joanna Lee.) At the end of that particular run, I got fired for losing my voice. (Not by Drumph, but by our manager, though admittedly I wasn't very well liked in that establishment. Attitudinal issues, I believe.)

You can read all about my exploits as a low-flying road musician by dropping me a message via the comments form and asking me to tell you all about it. How easy is that? Now excuse me - I have to go open another Five and Dime.

Another week that was.

I know we've all been drinking from a news fire hose this week and you hardly need me to remind you of that. Still, I'm going to do some short takes on various topics ... unless I get on a tear, then all bets are off. (No betting!)

Iraqi-versary - It's been fifteen years since the American invasion of Iraq. Still seems like yesterday, particularly when you consider the state Iraq is in right now - divided on a sectarian basis, barely holding together, bombs going off at regular intervals, struggles persisting over the rubble of its cities. Our war cost them upwards of a million lives, and that's compounded on the many hundreds of thousands who died in the 11 years of sanctions that preceded the 2003 attack. No one has been held accountable for this, so I'm confident it will happen again in some form.

Total ass clown.Bolton - Speaking of being held accountable, HE wasn't, and now he's going to be National Security Advisor. All I can say to that is, expect war with Iran ... but don't expect it to be the cakewalk that Iraq was. (Yes, I know ... but Iraq will seem like a cakewalk once we wade into Iran.)

Yemen Vote - The Sanders-Lee-Murphy amendment to force debate on an authorization for supporting the Saudi assault on Yemen garnered 44 votes, which is encouraging but not enough to save the millions facing hunger, cholera on a biblical scale, and endless death and destruction rained down by a U.S. sponsored and guided Saudi air force. We need to do better for the people of Yemen. Be sure to remind your federal legislators (and our president) that this is on them. And bear in mind that Trump pushed for the bill to fail as not to displease his beloved weasle-prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is a primary architect of this slaughter.

Cambridge Analytica - Count me as someone who doesn't believe the machinations of Russian bots and dodgy data companies like CA had a decisive effect on the 2016 election. That's not to say it didn't have ANY effect. And that's also not to say that they aren't tremendous dicks for steeling millions of people's data and using it to help elect a self-aggrandizing racist moron president of the United States. My feeling is that they - and, in fact, Facebook as well - should be broken up and scuttled for all they're worth. If you want to stop rogue billionaires, the best way to do it is by taking away their billions. Let them rough it as mere millionaires, poor sods.

Russia Probe - Message to Donald Trump: Please, please talk to Mueller or to the grand jury. Get your side of the story down, dude. It's the only way out of this mess. You can do it, Donald. Just wear your white sheet and speak truth to power.

luv u,
jp

Friday, March 16, 2018

Pull!

That thing shouldn't be allowed in a residential neighborhood. Yeah, I'm talking to you, Mitch. I don't want the mayor to send us nasty letters again. Five letters in one week is enough for any abandoned mill-squatter.

Oh, hi. I'm pretending to have just noticed you, looking at the blog post I wrote days ago. (What a giveaway!) We're having personnel issues again here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, high in the hill country of Central New York, far from the beaten path. It's my own fault for taking on a mad science advisor. Sure, he helps us get to Neptune and other distant worlds. Sure, he bends time like Superman bends steel bars (i.e. with his bare hands). But the utility ends where the madness begins, and let me tell you something, friends - Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, is as crazy as Jeremy Shaw's proverbial shithouse rat.

What's the source of the current eviction order? Well, Mitch heard an internet rumor that a certain Chinese Space Station - the Tiangong 1 - has been sputtering in a decaying orbit for the past few years, neglected by its owners, causing a threat to navigation high above the Earth's surface. He is now taking it upon himself to defend planet Earth by shooting the sucker out of the sky. Bet you can't guess how. No, not with a rocket. Nope, not a deadly Edward Teller-style laser. No, not an electron lasso (is that even a thing?). Give up? Me too. I don't freaking know.

Frankly, this seems a little dicey.All I can tell you, honestly, is that this project has consumed Mitch and our courtyard at the same time. He's spent the last week building a big howitzer-like monstrosity with a barrel that's got to be 80 feet long and a control panel with gauges, levers, flashing lights, electrical arcs, and steam whistles. (I think those are just for laughs, frankly.) Mitch refers to the device as his Positron Howitzer, though what that means I cannot tell you. But from what I've seen he can zero in on that sputtering space station and plant some kind of projectile in its side in a way that has the potential to ruin its whole day.

Matt wants me to dispatch Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to City Hall with some kind of peace offering - donuts or potato soup, something like that. I don't know. Those official threats are the only personal letters I receive anymore ... I'm a little reluctant to let them go.

Accountability.

The Trump clown car shed some bozos this week, most notably the media's favorite cabinet member, Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon Mobil, who managed to seem avuncular and unthreatening in comparison with most of his colleagues - this while he systematically dismantled the State Department. Still, he did appear to be perhaps the greatest naysayer on tearing up the Iran deal. With the Koch Brothers invention Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, I'm sure we will nudge much closer to the 2000 bombing runs he once suggested as an effective means of halting the Islamic Republic's nuclear program. In a saner age, that alone might have been disqualifying, but certainly not today.

Trump's new torturer.So, we'll now have an Iran warmonger as chief diplomat. And in Pompeo's old position at the head of the CIA, we will have the current deputy director Gina Haspel, a veteran of the Bush II-era Agency and a big fan of "rough" interrogation techniques (also known as torture). Haspel was directly involved in a CIA black site in Thailand where the Agency perpetrated torture of numerous individuals, including Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded by our operatives 89 times. She arrived after Zubaydah left, but later saw to it that incriminating tapes of this and similar episodes would be destroyed. For all those boning up on obstruction of justice standards in relation to the Trump White House, you might want to apply those standards to Haspel.

The torture crimes - essentially crimes against human dignity - are bad enough. But the fact that Haspel was part of an operation that was instrumental in the abuse of Zubaydah, whose extracted false testimony was key to the Bush administration's case for invading Iraq, raises this to another level. You know the plausible story on this - Bush/Cheney and company had decided upon the Iraq invasion well before 9/11 (and on some level, before taking office), but they needed a plausible pretext. They had no convincing evidence for their claims regarding an Al Qaeda connection with Saddam Hussein or an active nuclear program, so they put the torturers to work at doing what they do best - getting people to say anything ... ANYTHING ... to stop the abuse. The very fact that they waterboarded Zubaydah 89 times indicates that they were looking for some response in particular. They got it, bogus as it obviously was, and from that proceeded the catastrophic Iraq war that is still killing people 15 years later - a conflict that, three years in, had resulted in more deaths than the 7-year Syrian civil war.

No one has been held accountable for the crime of the Iraq invasion, nor for the torture regime. I don't expect that to happen anytime soon, but the least we can do is to stop rewarding the culprits with higher office. Maybe it wouldn't be entirely fair to start with Haspel, but we have to start somewhere.

luv u,

jp

Friday, March 9, 2018

Carry that weight.

What the hell. You mean I can't just stack the bricks like building blocks? I have to cement them together ... with real cement? Jesus, this is harder than I thought. Maybe I'll do the ditch-digging instead. That sounds easy.

Oh, hi. Just having a little tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte with my vocational guidance counselor. Sure, I know what you're thinking - I'm a little long in the tooth to start a new trade, right? Well, if tooth length had anything to do with it, I might try dentistry. No, this is just another of those exercises Big Green runs through from time to time when we're trying to find our asses with both hands. It's kind of an experiment in anarcho-syndicalism, but don't tell the magistrate - it's only the 10th and we've got a dozen demerits already this month.

As you know, Big Green is not a company, not a partnership, not a corporation ... not even a non-profit (though we certainly have the financial means to be a non-profit ... meaning we don't make any profit). We are a musical collective, all for one and one for all. So by necessity, we have to share the burden of work that no one particularly likes to do. You know, work that SHOULD be done by a ROBOT if we HAD such a convenience .... MARVIN. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) decided to take a week in the Seychelles. I didn't know he had the shekels for that little junket, but apparently he's been saving up.

Is that REALLY how it's done?Okay, so we live in this crumbling hammer mill, see? And it's mostly made out of bricks and mortar, see? In fact its hey-day was in the 1930s and 40s, when people ended most of their sentences with "see", see? Nyah. Well, it needs some patching done here and there, and well ... I was last pick, just like with the basketball teams in gym class. So it was off to the brickyard to get some of their wares, then back here to start patching, only to return to the brickyard because I forgot to buy cement, then got all the way back before realizing that the bags of concrete I bought were dry powder, not some kind of play-dough like substance. THAT's when I started thinking about digging those ditches.

Well, there' s a lot a man like me can do. But most of it involves sleeping. Zzzzzzzzz.....

Empire news.

With the shit-cyclone rotating around the Trump presidency on a daily basis, it's hard to keep track of what's going on elsewhere in the world. Most of the press coverage goes straight to Trump, Kushner, the Mueller probe, Stormy Daniels, on and on. Mind-numbing, and I think that's probably what they're aiming at. I always knew reality television was more than just bad entertainment - it gave me the creeps from The Real World and Survivor on forward, and now it's president of the United States. Not a good outcome for a whole host of reasons.

Anyway, there is a world out there, and stuff is happening in it that I feel we should pay attention to. Here are a few items I'm looking at.

Peace?Korea - This was a momentous week in the standoff over the Korean peninsula, largely thanks to the efforts of South Korean President Moon Jae-In and the willingness on the part of Pyongyang to come to the table. Trump will take credit for anything good that happens, and that's fine - sure, he's nearly blown us all up over this, but let him have his squeak toy of triumph, so long as there's no Korean War II. That would be a good thing for the world, as the hair-hat ass-clown said a few days ago. Will he meet with Kim Jong-Un as was announced on Thursday? No man can say. More on this next week.

Yemen - In the Senate, Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee, and Chris Murphy have introduced a war powers resolution calling on the administration to stop supporting Saudi Arabia's murderous assault on Yemen. SJ Resolution 54 has been introduced though not voted on yet - I encourage you to contact your senators and urge them to vote for this legislation. You can get their phone numbers off the web, or use the Stance app to send a recorded phone message (see http://takeastance.us/ for details).

Iran - There's a good interview on Jeremy Scahill's podcast Intercepted with Iranian scholar Holly Dagres about the history of the relationship between the United States and Iran and how its current system of government is a direct response to our interference (in the form of an coup) in the 1950s. Dagres also talks about the MEK terror group that counts many American political figures among its friends, including John McCain (big surprise), Howard Dean, and others. (Check it out at https://theintercept.com/2018/02/14/intercepted-podcast-americas-distribution-of-violence/ ) Also, give a listen to Jeremy's interview with Nikhil Singh in that same episode.

All right ... back to work with me.

luv u,

jp

Friday, March 2, 2018

Light on.

Okay, commence recording. The light is on, folks. No, not THAT light! That's the freaking microwave! That just means your burrito is cooked. I mean the production light. Jesus.

Oh, hi. Yeah ... we're working on some more music, but it's not obvious what exactly we're working on. Is it an album? An EP? A single? Some throwaway tunes for the podcast? Anyone's guess. All I know is that the light goes on and I start playing. When it goes out, I stop. Sometimes it flickers on and off, and that makes my job a bit harder. I see that and I drop in a lot of eighth-note rests - it can sound kind of funky if you close your eyes (and your ears, too).

We've made something of a habit of recording over the decades. Given that we're not a performing band at this point, at least not in the conventional sense, recordings pretty much amount to our "performances". But recording has been a bit of an obsession over the years, from Matt's reel-to-reel and cassette tapes, to 4-track cassette, to recording in various studios, to acquiring an 8-track Tascam DA-88 deck, then a 16/24-track Roland VS2480 workstation, and now a Cubase system. Hey ... we're archivists. Why fight it?

Is the light on? As part of our THIS IS BIG GREEN February podcast, I included a couple of old numbers drawn from demos. One of those was digitized straight from a standard audio cassette, simply because we never owned the original media it was on - a 2500-ft reel of half-inch audio tape from 1986, probably now nothing more than cinders. The 1981 recording (Silent as a Stone) was taken from a reel-to-reel stereo dub - you can hear the tape (or my playback machine) failing at the end. That song came from a session where we recorded four songs, including one of mine and one of Matt's. The 1986 version of "Slipping and Sliding" was recorded on an 8-track reel-to-reel machine as part of a 4-song demo; that I only have an audio cassette of.

So here we are again, toiling away on audio artifacts that someone will happen upon years from now and scratch their heads over. Which is pretty much how we find listeners. It's a process that works on geological time, basically, like making feldspar. (Hmmmm ... good idea for an album title. Feldspar ... )

Decision point.

This past week, the Supreme Court decided that undocumented immigrants don't have the same fundamental rights as American citizens. That's essentially what their decision in Jennings v. Rodriguez amounts to. People who cross into the country can be detained indefinitely, as they have been under the last four administrations, as per a narrow majority on the Court. (The opinion was written by George W. Bush appointee Samuel Alito.) It was a 5 to 3 decision, with Justice Kagan recusing herself, so for me the lesson of this - and other cases - is that elections matter and that people on the center-left need to start voting on the issue of the Supreme Court and who will garner a lifetime appointment to that august body.

Supreme Court: Not just a building.If Hillary Clinton had been elected president, she would have appointed someone relatively progressive to the Supreme Court to fill the seat currently held by Neil Gorsuch (illegitimately, in my view). That would likely have rendered a 4 to 4 split in the Rodriguez case, which would have allowed the lower court ruling in Rodriguez's favor stand. This case makes a material difference in the lives of thousands upon thousands of human beings - individuals and families making the dangerous crossing into this country, seeking a marginally better existence than what they face back home.

This is not the only instance - there will be many more. The Friedrichs case in 2016 was another prime example of why we can't sit on our hands, waiting for the perfect candidate. That was another 4 to 4 tie, allowing the lower court decision to stand, this time in favor of allowing unions to collect agency fees from non-member employees. Janus v. AFSCME, which is now before the court, addresses this same issue, and as a result of Trump's election and appointment of Gorsuch, it is likely to go against the unions. That will likely commence a death spiral for public sector unions, undermining the last vestige of organized labor strength in this country. That's a disaster for workers, and it's effing because people couldn't bring themselves to vote for someone they didn't like (Clinton) in 2016 in order to save the effing Supreme Court.

It gets worse. Justice Kennedy is likely to step down before the end of Trump's term. That likely means a permanent reactionary majority on the Court for decades to come. That said, it's never too late to learn. So people: whatever else you do politically, vote to make a difference, not to express your identity. Push the Democratic party in a progressive direction through action, internal pressure, and primary campaigns, but do not forget what's at stake when the general election arrives. Lives literally hang in the balance.

luv u,

jp

Friday, February 23, 2018

Inside February (again)

Jesus, Marvin. When I told you to release the podcast, I didn't mean put it on the end of a stick and hold it over your head. I meant "release it" in a more modern, technical sense. Are you sure you're a robot? Oh, okay. That's news to you. Whoops.

Well, it appears that Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has learned where his last name came from. Red letter day for him, at least. Me? I have to walk you through a podcast you probably haven't heard because my mechanical friend thinks the act of dropping an episode is something akin to playing lacrosse. No matter - push on!

Here's what we have in this month's THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast:

Ned Trek 36: Grope in the Fold - This installment of our now long-running Ned Trek series (a parody mashup of classic Star Trek, Mr. Ed, and that thing they call the Republican party) commandeers a second-season (1967) script entitled "Wolf in the Fold". Action includes some first-rate screaming, a gripping courtroom scene, and numerous instances of Mr. Ned telling Perle to shut up. Simply can't be missed.

Marvin blew it, man.Put The Phone Down - Matt and I sit down for our usual rangy discussion of whatever floats into either of our tiny brains. This month's random topics include a recap of the Ned Trek episode you just heard; a brief riff on a local meat market and its longstanding sausage-based slogan; Matt's recollection of a backstage fight between actors playing Buffalo Bill and Jesus Christ in a locally-produced musical back in 1978 or so; Our thoughts on the unusual, perhaps singular, playing style of our late friend and one-time guitarist Tim Walsh; Some news of beavers and sweet potatoes .... and so on.

Song: Two Lines - A Ned Trek / Sulu song from a couple of years ago; one of my personal favorites. Sulu sings of the anguish of only having two lines in any given episode. Chorus features common two-line speeches from Sulu's role in classic Star Trek.

Song: Silent as a Stone - Deep archive pick. This song long predates our Big Green moniker, but it's still us. Recorded in the long departed Music Workshop studio in Utica, NY (producer: Bill Scranton) back in 1981, this very weird little number features some of that insane Tim Walsh guitar work Matt and talked about. Head scratcher, but that's how we sounded in 1981.

Song: It Should've Been Me - Closer on our 2013 album Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick. Just because.

Song: Don't Tell Rick - A song we produced after Cowboy Scat. It's basically a plea to our audience of five not to tell Rick Perry about the album; particularly about the lyric in "It Should've Been Me" about playing with his dong. Still working on the video.

Song: Slipping and Sliding - Our cover of a Little Richard number. (Don't tell Rick!) This is another deep archive pick, from our very first recording as Big Green - a demo tracked at Ned Danison's brother's garage studio back in 1986 or so. One of the songs we did in those days.

Peace out.

Recoil.

As I mentioned briefly last week, it has happened again. Another deranged shooter with a military-style weapon and a mountain of ammunition. This time the target was a high school campus in Florida; last time it was somewhere else that didn't expect it. The young people who emerged in one piece from that atrocity have demonstrated an emotional and intellectual maturity, an eloquence, and a remarkable facility for organizing that puts us all to shame. When I see them, I hang my head - we, the older generations, simply are not good. Let them take the reins.

Our cheese-headed president had some of them over on Wednesday, along with survivors of other mass shootings, for a "listening session". What has Trump taken away from this heinous remake of previous atrocities? Well, he is telling Beauregard to look into banning bump stocks, again. That is something the Justice Department has been working on for months, since the Las Vegas massacre. The problem is that the administration is probably barred from doing so without action by the Congress, so Trump's NRA patrons can rest easy. He also suggested arming teachers, janitorial staff, and, I believe, students, claiming that that Gym teacher could have ended the whole shooting rampage if he had had a gun.

Trump's notion of the ideal school resource officer.Okay, well ... I may be the only American to remember this (I hope not), but back in the seventies, this latter suggestion was put forward as a joke on All In The Family - the right-wing caricature Archie Bunker was invited to do a guest editorial on television, and he advocated stopping airline hijackers by arming all the passengers. What was a joke in 1972 is now consider a serious policy proposal. That's how far we've come, people. And this is how far political leaders will go to avoid dealing with an issue. The money is all on one side, and our kids are on the other. If we leave the decision to our current crop of politicians, the kids don't stand a chance.

Sure, there are something like 10 to 15 million AR-15 style weapons in the United States. That doesn't mean we can't do something about this. First thing is to stop selling them. Second, in my opinion, you should be required to register military assault-style weapons and handle it in an appropriate way (i.e. lock it up at appropriate times). If you don't register it, you can't keep it. They are simply too destructive to treat like a 30-30 hunting rifle. Third: extensive background checks for all gun purchases (since Trump loves the concept of "extreme vetting," this shouldn't be a problem for him). Fourth, no more high-capacity clips and new limits on ammunition sales.

That's where we need to go if we're serious about protecting kids. Up to us, people. Elect a Congress and a president that will do it.

luv u,

jp

Friday, February 16, 2018

Fire rockets.

What do you mean what am I listening to? Music. What the hell do you think? It's my abandoned storage room. You got a problem with that? You do? Hmmm. Okay.

Well, here we are - another February at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, and let's just say things are getting a little slow around the Big Green collective enterprise. For the world is frozen and I have touched the sky. (Wasn't that almost a Star Trek episode?) 'Scuse me while I kiss the sky - how about that? Anyway, not much to do this month except catch up on my reading and listen to some tunes. I made the mistake of cranking up some traditional jazz - Lenny Breau, to be exact - and our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee took exception to that. Not a jazz fan he. I think he's partial to Wagner. Porter Wagner.

Actually, it's not just the music that has Mitch acting ornery. He's been at sixes and sevens ever since that Space-X launch of the "Falcon Heavy" and the subsequent touchdown of its twin booster rockets. I have never seen Mitch so glued to a television set (except that time he Nice ride, Mitch.was cooking up a new kind of super glue and, well, inadvertently glued himself to the television set). I may be going out on a limb, but I think the thing that is sticking in his craw is the notion that another private rocket launch would be so successful. He also has a strange fixation on the Elon Musk space car. I think he wants to hijack that ride and take it to Pluto.

I try to mollify Mitch with my assurances that, though the Falcon Heavy was a huge success, we DID do at least five interstellar tours by virtue of his spacecraft expertise. Sure, we were almost killed about a thousand times and, sure, we were stranded on strange alien worlds for weeks on end, but those are mere footnotes. The REAL story is that we didn't make a dime on ANY of those tours. THAT'S what's got ME all worked up. I don't know what the hell MITCH has to complain about. (Phew. You can see why my effort to reassure Mitch kind of fell flat.)

Okay, so ... keep an eye on the hammer mill. If you see the nose cone of a rocket sticking up out of the courtyard, give me a call.

First place.

I haven't been watching the Olympics, I freely admit. I've never been a sports fan at all - just can't get interested or excited about it. That said, these Winter Games have been more interesting than usual for me, and it's not because of our hometown pride Erin Hamlin (though I wish her well). For me it's all about the ongoing conflict/standoff over the Korean peninsula, and in that regard, the person who should be taking a gold medal home from these games is President Moon. And that medal should be the Nobel Peace Prize.

Give HIM a gold medal.He certainly deserves it, even if the detente between the two Koreas falls apart. At a time of almost unprecedented tension, and despite the overbearing patrimony of their American "ally", the South Korean president agreed to what was a stunning demonstration of unity in the midst of one of the most broadly watched sporting events in the world. Sure, it was symbolic, but symbolism can be powerful and it can drive policy. North and South Koreans marching in under a unified flag provided such a stunningly memorable image, I am likely to remember this Winter Olympics far longer than any previous ones. (And I have seen far less of it, as it happens.) The Trump administration seemed flummoxed over this; they deployed Pence, spouting some bellicose rhetoric, but it fell kind of flat.

Brilliant move on Moon's part. It also helpfully exposes the ugly truth of the Korean conflict. The main dispute is not between North and South Korea, but rather between North Korea and the United States. That's why our government seems so uncomfortable with the idea of the two Koreas talking to one another. What's not to like? Perhaps the prospect of eventual economic integration of Northeast Asia outside of the rubric of American economic power. Scary stuff.

Still, we're number one in another way, and we proved it this week. We just saw yet another mass shooting at a school, this one in Florida. We get the gold medal in gun violence, hands down. And until we elect people who are expressly determined to do something about this terror, we will suck as a nation. Let's not suck. Let's get rid of the NRA-funded bums who run Congress and send some progressive legislators to Washington who couldn't care less about the gun lobby. Time to fix this.

luv u,

jp

Friday, February 9, 2018

Song listlessness.

Did you look in the silo? Okay. How about the forge room? No? Then take a look, for crying out loud. Not a moment to spare.

Well, I am proud of myself. It took all weekend, but I pulled together an exhaustive list of all of the songs Big Green has ever written, from our very first days to the present. Yes, I left out the future, but two out of three isn't bad. Besides, predicting the future is hard. Don't know if you noticed. That's why we leave it to people like Kreskin ... and Criswell. (You remember Criswell, right? Criswell predicts!)

Trouble is (and there is always trouble here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill) Now that I've completed the list, I ... well ... can't find it. I would describe it to you, but you probably won't find it either ... unless you have a gift of prophecy, again, like Criswell. Well, I don't have a mentalist here at the mill. Though it's fair to say that most of our entourage are mental, in the colloquial sense. My only resource in situations such as this is Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who most assuredly does not have a gift of prophecy, but he does possess some of the finer qualities of a bloodhound when it comes to finding lost things.

Amazing!How do you sniff out a list? Not sure. He took a look around the courtyard. No luck. He did turn up some promising papers in the forge room, but alas, they were forgeries. Another twelve hours of exhaustive search and I will resort to recreating the list from scratch. That part's easy. Just start from "Sweet Treason" and work your way forward. (That original recording of Sweet Treason is a little scratchy, come to think of it.)

Why am I undertaking this seemingly pointless task? Well ... not sure. When you've got a lot of songs and even more time on your hands, you try to find ways of busying yourself. Maybe when I finish the list, I'll just sit in my room and play our entire canon from beginning to end. Probably about 300 songs, but that's a wild guess.

Oh, excuse me. MARVIN? DID YOU TRY MITCH'S LAB? BE SURE TO WEAR YOUR BLAST SHIELD!

Take a memo. Please.

The reverberations of Trump's rampaging State of the Union speech had barely faded before he started tweeting like an arrested tween. His wild claims about the Nunes memo, reflective of the fevered rhetoric proffered daily by his favorite network, were contradicted by the content of the memo itself, a selective, shabby attempt to draw the public's attention away from the Mueller investigation with an almost laughable claim of concern for Carter Page's civil liberties. Why do major modern political scandals always turn on weak spindles like Page and - for Hillary Clinton - Weiner? Maybe that's the only kind of spindle we've got.

Porter sighted with two notorious racists.This, again, feels like a big distraction from what the administration and the congressional majority are actually doing. If we're obsessing over one or the other revealing memo, we're not thinking about recent surveys - including one by CNBC - that indicate that the vast majority of large businesses have no intention of spending their tax savings on hiring people. That's no big surprise, but it's probably worth mentioning once in a while, right? After all, misguided workers who voted for Trump should be given the opportunity to understand that you can't trust the rich to help anyone but themselves, and that tax cuts are a poor investment in job creation.

Still, the administration will trot out the handful of examples that seem to fit their narrative, even if they don't. I'm sure they've crowed about AFLAC, even though practically none of their sales workforce is eligible for the bonuses they promised so loudly. This is what they do with immigration and other issues - they essentially hold up the exception and claim it's the rule. Doesn't matter ... think about the memos! The last few days they have been pushing this story about the FBI agent texts suggesting Obama was "keeping tabs" on the Clinton email investigation - subgenius senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) is their wingman on this conspiracy theory. My guess is that they are using this to distract attention away from the fact that one of Trump's chief aides is a serial spouse abuser who can't get security clearance to save his life ... and yet he STILL handles top secret, burn-after-read briefings for the President. In other words, they don't want you to think about what an insufferable ass General Kelly is, not to put too fine a point on it.

Just another week in paradise. Is it November yet?

luv u,

jp

Friday, February 2, 2018

Mark one.

I don't know. I'm not comfortable with this, dude. I mean, Big Green is not a corporation. We're not even a corner store. Hell, we nowhere near the corner.

Oh, hi. Just having a discussion with Big Green's branding team. That is to say, I'm hanging out with Marvin (my personal robot assistant), Anti-Lincoln, and the mansized tuber, and they're talking about branding us. Well ... the ones who can TALK, at least. Matt has kept out of it because he's, well, SANE. We've been hashing this out for the better part of an hour, and I honestly don't think we're accomplishing anything other than annoying the piss out of one another. So, all in all, a very typical brand team meeting.

I don't know why everyone assumes a band should have some kind of logo or brand identity. That just generally seems like a bad idea, but in our case, it's patently absurd. We are a creative collective, divvying up the proceeds equally between us - a headless musical beast, if you will, and everyone gets the same share of the nothing we earn. (There's plenty enough goose-egg to go around, folks.) Still, these guys are talking about a new mark for the band. They're throwing up ideas and seeing which ones fill a bucket. Or stick to the ceiling. It all depends on how you interpret the metaphor, you see.

Big enough?This won't surprise you, but this group has very little imagination. How little? Well ... glad you asked. Basically, their ideas for a Big Green logo consist of different colored circles with a picture of each of them in the center. So tubey has one with tubey's picture, Anti-Lincoln with his, and so on. Never mind what these items say about their concept of this band ... this band that NONE OF THEM RECORDS WITH ... these logos are an atrocity. And now they're talking to me about slogans. What a freaking waste of time!

The fact is, we have only worked with one actual logo in the entire time of our modern existence, from 1986 to the present. That's the one our photographer friend Leif Zurmuhlen created for us back in the day - mark one, if you will. So if we're going to use ANYthing, we're going to use that. Take that, branding team! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it. Run that up your flagpole.

State of the Yum-yun.

Seems like a good time to respond to some choice bits from Trump's first state of the union (or state of the umion, pronounced Yum-yun, if you're reading the official announcement).

First, the big fat entrance. Rep. Claudia Tenney gets a word in Trump's ear as he's working his way down the aisle. Always wearing some bright color and right up front when Trump is in town.

First flub goes to Ryan: "I have the distinct privilege of preventing ... presenting to you the President of the United States."

Now, on to Trump's remarks, delivered in a slithering, slow voice, lots of breath. Kind of nauseating, frankly.

The chief and his enablers."A new tide of optimism was already sweeping across our land," he tells us, referring to a year ago, then jumped right in with the anecdotes and the guests of honor. "We always will pull through together, always." Runs through a litany of lifesavers, mostly from disasters of our own making, through climate change, gun violence, etc. "The state of our union is strong because our people are strong. And together we are building a safe and strong and proud America." Platitude.

Touting more jobs for Black and Hispanic people. Big cheer for "massive tax cuts," of course. More take home pay! (Mitt Romney, come back - all is forgiven.) Calls out "cruel" tax of the individual ACA mandate, which very few people actually paid - big cheer from Republican recipients of government subsidized health insurance. Crowing about the titanic benefits of this "new American moment." "You can dream anything, you can be anything, and together we can achieve absolutely anything."

Some short takes:
  • "We share ... the same great American flag ...The motto is 'In God We Trust,'" he says, then makes a big point about standing for the national anthem. So much for Mr. We're All In This Together.
  • We're "...totally defending our second amendment and have taken historic actions to protect religious liberty." Shoot 'em up.
  • Calling on congress to empower cabinet secretaries to fire people. Is that novel?
  • "We have ended the war on American energy and we have ended the war on beautiful clean coal." So much for the section on climate change.
  • "Companies are roaring back, they're coming back. They want to be where the action is." Well, it's a kind of silent roar.
Trump starts talking about reducing the price of prescription drugs, and he gestures to the Democrats to stand and applaud. He does it again as he talks about repairing infrastructure, though the focus of this section sounds like he wants to roll back the environmental impact review process. He proposes $1.5 Trillion plan for infrastructure, but it must provide for streamlined permitting. Smell a rat?

Starting to talk about lifting people out of "welfare". "Let's invest in workforce development and let's invest in job training, which we need so badly." Calls for vocational schools and paid family leave - probably the Ivanka plan. A bleat on prison reform - very vague.

Immigration:

"For decades open borders have allowed drugs and gangs come pouring in." Now he's naming "guests" whose kids were killed by immigrants! MS13. Using them to call out "alien minors". This section is fucking disgusting, worthy of Der Sturmer. He is "calling on congress to close deadly loopholes" in immigration laws. Dirtbags are clapping.

He wants to protect all Americans. How? He wants to defend Americans. "Americans are dreamers, too." Oh, I see. Pretty much the only immigrants he's talking about is gang members. MS13 again. Talking about arrests of gang members. So what is the problem? They're going to prison. But Trump is talking about sending reinforcements. Now talking about bipartisan immigration reform - his draconian plan. Building a "great wall". His rhetoric on immigration is all about violence by immigrants, merit and race based rules, and "protecting the nuclear family by ending chain migration." Then he's blaming opioid deaths on immigrant drug dealers. Just a lot of thinly coded language aimed at racial division.

Next, he's praising cop - another guest in audience - who stopped a pregnant woman from shooting heroin. Then he adopted the baby. Point? This is not a speech; it is a series of extended anecdotes. It's like a fucking variety show. He's using these people as human shields.

Foreign policy and military section:
  • "Weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means to our true and great defense." Calling for end to defense sequester. Well, the GOP created it, so why not, right?
  • Taking credit for eliminating ISIS.
  • Calling terrorists "enemy combatants". Sounds like the start of an argument for torture, Gitmo, etc. Just signed an order to re-examine detention policies and keep open Gitmo. Score one for the jihadist propagandists.
  • Touting new rules of engagement. Calling out artificial timelines. Recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel. Asking to cut off aid to countries that criticize us at UN. "Enemies of America." "America stands with the people of Iran in their courageous struggle for freedom." "Terrible Iran nuclear deal." "Communist and socialist dictatorships in Cuba and Venezuela."
  • Threatening North Korea again. "Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite ... aggression." Applauding that kid Warmbier. Extended anecdote about Korean guest who crawled to freedom and a further tirade against North Korea. Jesus H. Christ.
Big fat ending:

Patriotic claptrap roll call. Republicans chanting "USA, USA, USA!"

"The people dreamed this country, the people built this country, and it's the people who will make America great again." Yep. When they get rid of you.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Twang it.

Okay, so the strings have been changed. Congratulations. Only trouble is, there's four strings, not six. What is this freaking thing, a banjo? No banjos in my house! Well .... maybe one, but that's it!

Wow, I guess you caught me laying down the law with Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who has been standing in for my guitar technician over the last week or so. Not a role he was born to play, that's for sure. His rudimentarily prehensile claws can barely hold on to a guitar let alone change a set of strings. I think this time around, he quit the task at four strings just because it's so damned impossible. (I gave him Mission Impossible.)

Why would I ask Marvin to change my guitar strings? Well, he should stretch a bit beyond his comfort zone, you know? He's got to make something of himself one day, and with all of the automation happening throughout our global economy, I'd say he'll have plenty of opportunities. If Factory tuned to concert pitch.that sounds odd coming out of a confirmed collectivist, just bear in mind - Marvin doesn't have any material or animal wants or needs. He runs off of a little breeder reactor in his chest cavity. I think it looks like a cake frosting pipe with some arteries painted on the outside - it bobs up and down and makes a noise that recalls to mind a beating heart. (Oh no, wait ... that's an episode of Lost in Space.)

Actually, Marvin has volunteered to serve as the self-driving part of our self-driving car. All we need to do is add the car part. I tried to explain to his tiny brain that the car part is the hard part because it involves substantial cash outlays and various other activities that are difficult to perform when you are "off the grid", if you catch my meaning. Still, it would put us in the forefront of independent bands if we started traveling about in a van driven by an automaton. This could be our ticket to stardom ... or at least start-um. (You have to start somewhere.)

Back to the guitar strings. I am trying to teach myself a few songs on guitar so that I can start busking. Or at least do some virtual busking, as a professional busker, not a hobbyist. (Like I need a hobby, right?) The guitar case will be open, hungry for unwanted coins, at a subway stop near you.

Korea's January thaw.

Sometime in the coming days, the North and South Korean Winter Olympic Teams will march together under a unified flag, and the Women's Hockey Teams will play on the same side. And it looks like it's happening, now that the International Olympic Committee has said it's okay. Think about that statement for a moment - did they really need to deliberate on this? It's just a freaking game, people. If it provides a means of reducing tensions, why would your cheesy rulebook ever stand in the way? Score one for President Moon Jae-in, over the objections of his country's hardliners and, of course, the United States.

The imperialist's nightmare.Think it strange that the U.S. would be against a lessening of tension? Well, it's not just a Trump thing. There's a deep imperial institutional bias against ending that conflict, and it manifests itself in a host of different ways. Just Wednesday of this week I saw an NBC story about the North Korean woman who allegedly blew up a South Korean airliner; she is out of jail, living in exile as a defector in South Korea. The bombing was decades ago - so why did the network decide to dredge this story up now and hang it around the father of the current North Korean leader's neck? I would say that NBC is about as close to the core of the U.S. foreign policy establishment as any institution can be. With a lot of positive stories coming out about the glimmer of North/South detente in Korea, it's no surprise that this old chestnut would bob up to the surface.

Of course, blowing up an airliner is a heinous crime. We've done it - recall the shootdown of the Iranian Airbus back in July 1988, to say nothing of our support for CIA asset Luis Posada Carriles' downing of the Cuban airliner carrying their Olympic fencing team in 1976 (the perpetrator now living unmolested in Miami). Of course, so too is blowing up a whole country. We've done that, too ... to North Korea, for instance. Putting that aside for a moment, it seems clear to me that we have a strong resistance to defusing this Korean bomb. When obvious peaceful solutions are available and remain untried, it's reasonable to assume that there are other considerations at work.

Consider this: the Korean conflict gives us a strong foothold in Asia. When it flares up, the many of the regional players turn to us. It provides justification for our massive military presence in the south and substantial presence elsewhere in the region. Most importantly, the conflict prevents greater international cooperation leading to full integration of that region's economies, independent of the American-dominated global system. That, I suggest, may be the nightmare scenario that keeps our planners awake at night - not the prospect of nuclear war.

Changing our priorities in Korea is going to take real work. It goes way beyond party and personalities.

luv u,

jp

Friday, January 19, 2018

Hiatus be damned.

Yes, I know the phone is ringing. Just let it ring, for crying out loud. Don't people know we're on vacation? Jesus Christ on a bike, try to take a week off around this joint! What? Oh ... okay. It's the neighbor's phone. Stupid neighbors!

Hey, out there. You caught us taking a brief hiatus between the nothings that we have going on. (You can tell I'm on vacation because I say "hey" when I mean "hi" ... though that might also make me an NPR correspondent.) Everybody needs a little down time. We tend to have a little more than most people. In fact, you could argue that Big Green is a bit like a downtime reservoir. People come here to waste time; that's what makes the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill such a regional treasure. (And one man's trash, well ... you know the rest.) That's understandable - sometimes taking a hiatus can be heavy lifting. That's how people end up with hiatal hernias. (I'm just going to leave that right there.)

Do not disturbOkay, so ... when you're on vacation, you end up doing a bunch of stuff you don't ordinarily have time for. For me, that usually involves surfing the web, and in my idle wanderings a stumbled across another Big Green. No, I don't mean another BAND called Big Green - lord knows, there are at least one or two of those. This is a nutrition advocacy organization that works out of Detroit. Which means they are actually doing something USEFUL with our name, which is more than I can say for us. They're helping to feed people; we're wasting time with stuff like this. Case closed.

I haven't told our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee about the other Big Green because I don't want him to start doing what he always does, which is stew on something until smoke comes out of his ears. He sees threats everywhere, including the forge room at the mill, which mostly contains broken down machines and iron filings. When he wanders through there at night, he sees silhouetted in the darkness the hunched profiles of creatures he either invented or destroyed during his long, evil career. I can see how that might be unnerving, especially when you misplace your anti-depressant tabs the morning before. (We encourage Mitch to take his Paxil regularly. It's a kind of self-defense.)

Well, that's what we did on OUR winter vacation. And you?

Shit show.

This just in: President Trump is a racist. Who could have seen THAT coming? The administration's childish denials of the President's "shithole countries" comments, the persistent refrain of "tough language" and swearing all around - all of that belies the reported fact that Trump was bragging about his racist tirade to some of his right-wing allies, a few of which let the story slip. Frankly, I think the administration far prefers the focus on Trump's verbal diarrhea - it keeps the press from focusing on the underlying issues, which make less compelling television. (It also reinforces Trump's message to his base that he thinks like they do about dark people, foreigners, etc.)

Trump family reunionThere is also the fact that the President doesn't understand policy, isn't interested in it, and is incapable of delving any deeper than the surface of any political issue. He is kind of a blank slate, though he does obviously have deep-rooted visceral prejudices. Third-rate thinkers (and ninth-rate speechwriters) like Stephen Miller can scrawl their alt-right graffiti on the guy and he will repeat whatever they tell him. Retrograde bigots like General Kelly and Tom Cotton guide Trump like he's their senile uncle. So the President's feint towards compromise last Tuesday was transformed into the spectacle of last Thursday, when Trump denigrated an entire continent as well as the ex-colony that was a primary source of France's wealth.

The implicit racism of the administration's argument on immigration is far more stunning than his gutter rhetoric. They want less people from places like Haiti and Africa (!) and more people from places like Norway; they see this as an argument for a more "merit-based" system, because they can't conceive of the possibility that people from Haiti or African countries are (a) educated, (b) highly skilled, or (c) industrious. Because they are, well, black, the administration thinks of them as a hoard of hut-dwelling wash-outs in search of free services. That is basically a textbook definition of racism, even without the S-bomb. They have a 1940s cartoon-level conception of these foreign lands and the people that inhabit them, and they use that to add fuel to their fear-mongering.

Let's face it: immigrants, particularly darker ones, are an easy political target; always have been. I hear people much smarter than Trump employing the same tactics, pointing to crimes by foreign nationals and generalizing select incidents to tar entire populations, an art form mastered by the Nazi propagandists. This kind of hate is our enemy, and we need to fight it on the beaches, in the streets, in the alleys, and in the doorways. We must never surrender to it.

luv u,

jp

Friday, January 12, 2018

Stage fright.

I like to play it in C. Mostly because it's an easy key, okay? You got a problem with easy? Huh? All right then - WE'LL DO IT LIVE!

Whoa, was that mic live? Sorry, everyone. Caught us in the midst of what passes for a band meeting here in Big Green land. (And I don't mean Canada, which kind of looks like a big Greenland.) As you probably know, everything I say gets transcribed into this blog, so you are truly getting a slice of life here. I obviously don't do a lot of talking, or this blog would be waaaaay longer. No sir - I just talk for about fifteen minutes, twice a week, and you can read it all here. Hot off the presses!

Okay, that's a lie. See what happens when I don't want to talk about something? That "something" is, well, playing live, which is something we don't do a whole lot anymore. Not saying we won't do it again, God no. Only, well ... we're a little older than we were forty years ago, and Matt and I are kind of settled in our ways. The mansized tuber has put down roots, and Marvin (my personal robot assistant) doesn't move as fast as he used to, owing in large measure to rust and loose The hell it is!contacts. (Yes, that's right, lady robots - he wears contacts.) So it's not stage fright. More like existential angst.

Funny thing is, when we DID play all the time, we sometimes played other people's music. And one of those songs was Stage Fright, by The Band. So you could say that the reason we don't play local clubs and dance halls is Stage Fright, but that would be suggesting that this particular song plays an important role in our repertoire, and we don't remember how to play it. Yes, I play it in C, but everyone else remembers it in A or D or some other dumbass key. I think I'm right, they think I'm crazy - stalemate! And if that were the only song we play, well ... we couldn't play.

Well, we got that straightened out. Now ... on to the Badfinger set. Oh, doctor.

Overseas.

Hmmm... crazy racist grandpa has been mouthing off again. Trump is truly breaking all records in the bigot category, at least with respect to the modern presidency. But I digress. There has been so much news about various story lines in the Trump scandal that a lot of consequential international news gets blown out of the water. These are extremely volatile times and we would do well to pay closer attention to what's happening overseas, particularly when our country is playing a significant role in it. Of course, some attention is paid to the Korean crisis, perhaps in part because of the high human stakes involved, but more likely because of the insipid pissing match between Kim Jong Un and our madman president, who is singularly uninformed about the history of that region. Our news media loves pissing matches - so easy to report on.

There he goes again.The two Koreas have taken some tentative steps to de-escalation, and I for one am glad to see that. In fact, I wish they would just bury the hatchet and tell us to take a hike, frankly. But it's the kind of detente that can easily be upended by a volatile president, and Korea is one of those issues over which even the craziest commander-in-chief can find willing allies in Congress. Israel/Palestine is another. Trump's policy on Jerusalem is appalling, but it also happens to be the same policy Congress long ago approved and a previous president (Clinton) signed into law. This is a symbolic issue domestically and a very substantive issue internationally; I am guessing that most Americans have no idea what the implications of this policy are, no notion of how large the municipality now called Jerusalem has grown over the past three decades. Underwriting Israel's unilateral annexation of this city essentially eliminates any chance of a two-state solution, period. Some of my countrymen know this; many more do not, or simply do not care.

Even Trump's domestic policy, enabled by Congress's inaction, has international implications. Take his ending of Temporary Protective Status for refugees from El Salvador. There is no way in hell that the husk of a country those people left behind decades ago can absorb 200,000 of them, even if they wanted to go back. Haiti is a similar story. But this is the reality we live in now. This executive policy shatters lives and threatens the stability (to the extent that there is any) of Central America and the Caribbean. Again, Congress could stop this ... but does nothing.

Color me disgusted.

luv u,

jp

Friday, January 5, 2018

Inside December/January.

Did you toss it up there? Good. High enough for everyone to reach, I hope. Sometimes you have to warm the arm up a bit, like the old windmill baseball pitch, then let it fly, and hopefully it lands right in the sweet spot. That's pretty much all you can do. Server technology is tricky as hell. Oh, hi. As you may or may not know, we posted our Holiday/New Year episode of our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN, this past week, and already it's generating serious buzz. No, seriously ... I try to listen to it, and all I get is a buzz. (I'm told that's my ear buds.) Now, if YOU listen to it, you're likely to hear the following:  

NED TREK 35: The Romney Christmas Special / Ned Trek Reunion Special. Well, we tried to make an extravaganza this year, and obviously failed. Then we tried to get the lousy show up in time for Christmas, and, again, we failed. However, it has been posted in time for New Year's, and this special Ned Trek is certainly worthy of a holiday as nondescript as New Year's. The intention was to put together something that resembles one of those lame reunion specials for The Brady Bunch or The Manson Family (hint: one of those is fake), including some unknown hireling actor playing Jan (or in our case, playing Perle). Also featured is Jimmy Sweetwater, the guy inside the Nixon robot (not the voice actor). The "special" is variously hosted by Gladston Goodstein (aka Peter Lorre), Dr. Carl Sagan, and Lee Majors.

Embedded in the show are six Big Green songs, including:

Romney Christmas Special Theme Song - A ludicrous little number featuring Nixon, Kissinger, actual Perle, Ned, Willard and other voices. Covers some of the thematic underpinnings of this failed adventure in audio entertainment.

Christmas Business - Another Willard number capturing the true confiscatory spirit of the holidays. Refreshingly brief.

Sorry, man. You're not needed this year.Plastic Head - This song is a slight redo of a number Matt did for his 1988 Christmas tape, this version sung by Ned. All about a vehicular encounter with a roadside Christmas miracle coupled with metaphysical transposition. Just listen - you'll get it.

Bobby Sweet - A new song, roughly about America's gun culture. At Christmas.

Christmas To End - This is another retread of a song Matt wrote for one of his gift tapes, this one from 1994, re-recorded as a Sulu song. Let the war on Christmas begin ... again.

He Does It For Spite - Re-recording of a song from Matt's legendary 1990 Christmas tape, about a spoiler spirit from the great beyond. True story.

PUT THE PHONE DOWN. Matt and I talk about ... uh ... I don't know what. We do bad accents, talk about beavers, sing weird songs, and generally make merry by the standards of this dark time. Hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed making it. (And hopefully a whole lot more.)

In with the old.

It's manifestly obvious that Trump is an incompetent boob, grandfathered into the presidency by virtue of that mother of all mulligans served up by our founding fathers: rich white guy can't win the support of the majority, so kick it to the electoral college. (Apparently Trump's win came as a real shock to his family and himself.) That said, it would be a mistake to suppose that his ignorance is in any way blissful for the opposition - quite the contrary. The President and his party are making tremendous strides across a broad front, setting policies that will take a generation to turn around. Nothing less than that.

World's most effective boneheadI've written about the speed-dating approach to judicial appointments; suffice here to say that Trump has broken a first-year record on this. (These are lifetime appointments, mind you, and his picks are ghastly from a left-progressive standpoint.) He has also made a full frontal assault on regulations, removing the ban on fracking on public lands, fines for abusive nursing home care, safety requirements for blowout protectors on deep-water oil drilling operations, the fiduciary rule requiring financial advisors to put their clients' interest ahead of their own, and so on. Other great accomplishments of the last year include loosening the already weak DOD restrictions on civilian casualties, trashing net neutrality despite massive, broad-based opposition, and canceling national monument status for large swaths of land in western states, thereby opening them up for resource and mineral extraction. There's a lot, lot more, but I will stop there.

As we start the new year, we are faced with some truly grave prospects regarding this administration and the GOP agenda more broadly. Trump's terrifyingly childish nuclear threats are bad enough in and of themselves - this tragic-comic display could easily result in terminal thermonuclear war, no joke. If we survive the year, we will be grappling with part two of the wrecking crew's plan to tear down what's left of America's social safety net, from the ACA to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security - programs we all rely upon to some extent. In that respect, this is merely an extension of a long-term project; a "generational" obsession, to borrow Speaker Ryan's favorite modifier. That is going to be a fight, my friends.

So 2018 is looking a lot like more of 2017. No rest for the weary. Just keep your marching shoes handy, and plan on voting as if your life depended on it.

luv u,

jp