All in favor.

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Do we have a quorum? No? Where’s Matt, then? Oh, right …. watching the falcons. That’s fine. The mansized tuber can sit in for him for the time being. Okay, tubey … raise your right, uh … taproot.

Oh, hi. Caught me in the middle of a production meeting. We’re trying to work out who is going to be the first down the hole … I mean, the elevator to the center of the Earth. Since this is a question that affects all of us, it must be decided in council. That’s right – we are not tree dwellers here, my friends. We are civilized people, okay? And we are familiar with the principles of self governance. At least we know there are such principles. And if you don’t like them, well … we have other principles.

I’ve described Big Green as a creative collective more than once. That’s not far from wrong, though the creative part is a little sketchy. Nevertheless, we are very much a worker-run enterprise, operating out of an abandoned hammer mill, wearing recovered skins from the carcass of a failed industrial economy. Think of us as post-apocalyptic commie minstrels, sharing everything we scrounge together (including our lack of money). Routine matters, like opening windows or walking across the street, are passed by simple majority vote, but more weighty matters – like who is going to move that very heavy refrigerator across the room – require a consensus of four fifths plus one, with an extra vote on alternate Tuesdays.

All in favor, say aye.You might think such a flat structure would lead to some kind of anarchistic free-for-all or frequent proxy fights. Not a bit of it – we all get along swimmingly, particularly on occasions like last weekend when the skies opened up and we had 3 feet of water on the ground floor of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. Not that it’s trouble free. I can remember one management meeting when Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, fashioned three or four robotic arms so that he could win every show of hands. He already has Marvin (my personal robot assistant) as a proxy. That’s when we went to voice votes.

The simple fact is, when you don’t have much to divide, it’s a lot easier to be equitable. Everybody gets an equal slice of nothing. And everyone gets a say on who will be the first to explore the Earth’s core. Fair is fair.

One way out.

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Rockets went off on the Fourth of July as usual, though some were not the variety you can now apparently buy in New York State at any of what seems like a million roadside stands. I am of course referring to the launch of the North Korean “ICBM” and the response by the American expeditionary force permanently stationed in South Korea – namely a volley of missiles fired into the sea. The North Korea missile story was teased for a couple of days by the likes of Joe Scarborough, in between his raking over the details of some petty blackmail Trump’s flunkies were pulling on him and his partner. Now it’s full-court press on North Korea, reminiscent of the kind of rhetoric we heard prior to the Iraq war.

The first report I heard started with the term “provocation”. It went downhill from there. The fact is, I have yet to hear from anyone on mainstream media programming who doesn’t subscribe to the general consensus view that (a) North Korea is a madman aggressor nation, (b) only pressure on China can “bring them to heel”, and (c) we tried negotiations and it didn’t work. In fact, I have yet to hear any politicians on the center-left raise doubts about this toxic consensus. It seems with respect to this and similar conflicts, politics stop at the water’s edge. That would be fine if they had it even half-right, but they don’t.

Not worth itFirst of all, the madman aggressor notion ignores the fact that we maintain the most powerful military force on the peninsula. It also frames the issue as one centering on a leader’s irrationality. Whatever the faults of the Pyongyang regime, it’s not hard to see why they want a credible nuclear deterrent. It’s actually a relatively sane response to the threat of attack from a superpower that (1) destroyed them once in the 1950s and (2) is a constant menacing presence, running mock invasions and leadership decapitation exercises several times a year. Second, the China “card” is irrelevant – North Korea’s disagreement is with us, not China. That’s why they’re building an ICBM. They want what they’ve always wanted – a non-aggression guarantee from us, which is what China and Russia have called for – along with restraint from Pyongyang – after their recent summit.

Finally, the “we tried it” claim is false. We reneged on the 1994 nuclear deal, which involved our providing the North Koreans with a light-water nuclear reactor – something Clinton and the GOP Congress never followed through on. The 2000 election debacle stopped the Clinton foreign policy team from working out a non-aggression agreement with Kim Jong Il at the last minute, then two years later North Korea was added to the “Axis of Evil” by the Bush II administration, placing a big red bull’s eye on their flank. That pretty much guaranteed the continuation of their nuclear weapons program.

We are experiencing the bitter outcome of consistently bad policy implemented by both major political parties. Such a longstanding consensus implies that there may be some merit to the suggestion made by Chomsky and others that the continuing Korean conflict serves our grander imperial vision by preventing the ultimate economic integration of northeast Asia. If China, Japan, and Korea lessened tensions and formed a cooperative arrangement of sorts, it would be a formidable economic rival to U.S. hegemony, to be sure.

The downside risks of this kind of brinkmanship are too great. There’s one way out of this disaster: talk to Pyongyang. This is no longer an ideological dispute as it was framed in the 1950s (North Korea is a model for no one). This is about safety and survival for everyone on the Korean peninsula, and that needs to be the guiding star for our Korea policy moving forward.

luv u,

jp

Down under what?

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What the hell is that? Sounds like the howl of the wind in a box canyon. No, wait … I know that sound. I think it’s a distant didgeridoo. That’s it, fellows – we have dug ourselves a tunnel to Australia.

Well, barely a day goes by here in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill without some kind of discovery. Last week it was a new source of precious reverb – a commodity rare as hen’s teeth up here in central New York. Now we’re looking at (or staring down into, I should say) a superhighway to down under. And when I say “down under”, I don’t mean merely down underground. Nay, sir … I mean the actual land “Down Under”, meaning the continent of Australia.

What luck, eh? Here I thought this elevator shaft to the center of the Earth would yield only another string of unsuccessful and unsatisfying performances in front of restive gaggles of Morlocks or some other troglodytic denizens of the dark. But now it seems the tunnel is a bit deeper than we thought … like maybe twice as deep. Because you can just about see some light coming though from the other end, and it looks like Aussie sunlight. There’s also a vague scent of flat beer. (Though I think that might be coming from Anti-Lincoln. He’s been hitting the cache lately, and it shows.)

Then came MarvinWe could be wrong, of course. After all, one random strain of didgeridoo music does not a continent make. The only way to be certain is to send a emissary down there. It’s a highly dangerous mission, so there’s no way in hell that’s going to be me. Matt’s no stranger to danger, of course, but only in the context of helping birds, animals, and other living things. (Snowflake!) Then there’s Marvin (my personal robot assistant). If he’d been around in 1969, NBC might have done a show about him called “Then came Marvin.” He could have played a disillusioned android who starts riding a scooter around Minneapolis, then got canceled after two seasons.

Anywho, if we send Marvin down there and he comes up with an Aussie hat and a kangaroo’s footprint on his brass, we’ll know we hit Aussie paydirt. Sounds like a plan. Ish.

Sickness.

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As I write this, the Senate Republicans have pulled their version of the ACA “repeal and replace” legislation – a bill that’s really more a massive tax cut funded by massive cuts in Medicaid. This temporary hiatus is mostly down to the many thousands of people across the country who made their voices heard in various ways, and so to all of you I say job well done. That said, this job is not, in fact, done. The Republicans will be back very soon with a slightly amended version of the bill that can garner 50 votes, after having bought off key senators with part of that $300 billion-plus deficit reduction bundle built into this piece of legislative ordure. Just watch.

Two old men who will never need Medicaid.This entire situation – I won’t say “debate” because there hasn’t been any – is ridiculous largely because no one in Washington will admit to what the ACA’s core problems are. The Republicans, and to a certain extent many Democrats, continue to insist that competition and a freer market in health insurance will deliver affordable coverage to everyone; just pull those sick people out of the system and into an underfunded high-risk pool, and the market can do its magic.

Bullshit. The “free market” approach to individual coverage doesn’t work because individual health insurance is not a profitable line of business; insurers have known this for decades and have been pulling out of individual policies because they carry too much downside risk. They prefer large employer plans, where the only money being risked is that of the client company, not the insurer. Even if you start an individual health policy in good health, things inevitably go wrong and then the company is on the hook. Sure, they prefer younger, healthier folks as customers, but even they get cancer once in a while. Individual policies are not a money maker unless the market is so drastically tilted in the insurer’s favor that they can basically sell nominal “coverage” to healthy people.

This is why Medicaid is such a popular program. Even the GOP’s complaints about it all center on cost, not care. (They just see it as a cash cow.) Medicaid is not provided on market principles; neither is Medicare nor the veterans health program. No health insurance should be market-driven, because treating it like a commodity severely disadvantages poorer, older, and sicker people. Those categories apply to most everyone at some point in their lives. The only way to ensure that coverage will be there for all of us when we need it is single payer.

Last word: this Senate bill is sick; it is a tax cut scheme built on gutting Medicaid and pulling money from Medicare. And it will be back.

luv u,

jp

More verb.

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Give me a little more slack on this XLR. Little more … little more … woof! That’s good. Now point the speaker down over the side of the hole. There’s a good chap.

Right, well … you’ve caught us in the midst of a pretty typical dilemma for bands as unsuccessful and under-resourced as Big Green. You probably know what I’m talking about (because I sure as hell don’t). You’ve come to expect us to scrape our way through every situation, living in squat houses and lean-tos, taking the cheap seats on pretty much any mode of transportation you can name. So what the hell – we’re not some fancy-ass successful band that can afford racks of expensive gear. We’ve got a bunch of second-hand kit that’s held together with masking tape … because that’s what our audience demands.

So, when you need reverb, and you don’t have an expensive effect unit, or even an old, cranky one, what the hell do you do? I’ll tell you what – you just lower a microphone down the tunnel to the center of the Earth that’s in your basement and then pipe in your tracks. It’s a little boomy, but it beats the hell out of the reverb spring in my antiquated fender twin. This isn’t the first time we’ve had to go old school – and by “old school”, I mean effects that are almost entirely environmental in nature, like getting echo by scrambling up a hillside and shouting real loud. (Just be sure to bring a jar with you so you can catch the echo.)

No dice, Mitch?It’s when you get into things like distortion that this approach gets a little tricky. Sometimes we just plug a guitar cord into Marvin (my personal robot assistant) and have him jump in place; though that ends up sounding a bit more like tremolo. I was thinking of asking Mitch to attach a leslie rotating horn to Marvin’s head so that we can get a better B-3 sound while he’s jumping up and down, but Mitch would probably just wave that suggestion off. (He’s kind of picky when it comes to big ideas.)

Thing is, if you have a big empty space, or even a little one (like, say, between your ears), you can get a decent reverb effect. Tech tip for the day from Generation Reverb.

Between truces.

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It’s been more than 15 years and we’re still at war in Afghanistan; a deployment and occupation considerably longer than that of the now-defunct Soviet Union. It’s been more than 14 years and we’re still at war in Iraq, a conflict longer than the one military historian Dilip Hiro once described as “The Longest War” (the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s). We’re killing people in Roqqa, Syria, in Mosul, Iraq, in Yemen, and quite a few other places. Far from stepping away, we are preparing to double down, sending another contingent of thousands of American troops to Afghanistan on some quixotic effort to tamp down the wildfire we helped ignite thirty-seven years ago.

Well, it was at the time.Endless war in an of itself is now an invariant reality of modern U.S. foreign policy, regardless of which major party holds the reins of power. The broad political consensus has built a nearly unassailable war machine – not in the sense that it is impervious to military defeat, but rather that it is designed to run on and on regardless of what the American people have to say about it. The killing machine is well insulated from the voting, tax paying public – there’s no conscription, no war tax, no apparent sacrifice associated with these extended deployments except with respect to the volunteer soldiers who are sent to fight, be grievously wounded, and even die. The beauty of this political creation is that it appears to defy gravity; only a herculean effort on the part of the American people could stand a chance of ending these wars.

Of course, Donald Trump has now been stitched into the driver seat of the killing machine. I am among those who consider this a very dangerous state of affairs, even though the background level of warfare remains about the same. The danger is in the fact that Trump is (a) phenomenally ignorant, (b) supremely incurious about any topic that doesn’t bear directly on him, his image, his family, his fortune; and (c) recklessly arrogant in a third-world dictator kind of way. His response to foreign policy challenges reminds me of D’artagnan on his first day in Paris, unwittingly challenging all three of his future fellow musketeers to a duel. A dispute with the Syrians, the Russians, the North Koreans, and the Iranians all in one week. It’s not too hard to imagine a quintet of new conflicts breaking out all at the same time, largely because Trump doesn’t really understand or believe in diplomacy.

We live in dangerous times, to be sure. But at the very least, unless we all decide to make a point of it, we are well and truly stuck with these wars for years – even decades – to come.

luv u,

jp

Drill down.

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There’s a hole in daddy’s hammer mill where all the money goes. At least that’s what it feels like. Christ on a bike, why is it every mad science idea ends up costing a fortune? What, between the magnetos and the giant vacuum tube-driven linear amplifiers, we are completely tapped out.

I should explain. Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor and inventor of Marvin (my personal robot assistant), has plugged together a special elevator-like tram car dubbed the Giardiniera Twelve for us to ride to the center of the earth using the handy hole to the center of the earth we now have in the hammer mill basement. We’ve already sent Marvin down a few floors for a look see, and it seems promising. He came back with a hotdog and a Dodgers pennant, so my guess is that we have found a tunnel to the 1950s. Think of all the songs we can lift!

That said, there is a bit of a problem monetizing this idea. I understand there may be intelligent life down under, but what are their tastes? Do they like 50s pop music or 90s grunge? It’s even conceivable that Where's all the work at?they may not like either of those things … though that would be okay, because we don’t really play either of those things. That said, finding an audience on the surface of the Earth is hard enough. Finding one in the mantle or (God forbid!) in the chewy nougat center of the Earth will probably be next to impossible.

And then there are the logistical challenges. Yes, they are many. It wouldn’t be so bad if we were an un-amplified banjo-toting accordion-squeezing polka band, but we are not that (at least this week). I ask you – how the hell are we going to pack amps, a drum set, an electric piano, a stack of guitar cases, and PA components – along with ourselves – into what amounts to a smallish elevator? Mitch is working on a solution as we speak, but I’m not sanguine. The last time we tried to do something like this, he pulled out a shrink-ray that reduced my Martin D-1 to the size of an ashtray. Now I use it as an ashtray. Not real good.

So we’re not that close to plugging that hole. Let’s see what Mitch can do … and how much it will cost.

Targets.

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The most recent heinous and indefensible mass shooting in America (or nearly so – there’s already been another one) was targeted on members of the House of Representatives. That is part of what makes it unusual. The other part is that it was perpetrated by someone nominally on the left. Typically we get some kind of Klan kid, like Dylan Roof, or some crazy cracker shooting up south Asians because they’re darker than him (and it’s usually a him). Whatever the motive, the shooting at the baseball diamond was a despicable act, plain an simple. And it happened in the usual way: the perpetrator purchased the guns, apparently legally, from a licensed firearms dealer (a 7.62 -caliber rifle and a 9 mm handgun), no problem. The kind of transaction that most if not all of the players on the GOP baseball team wholeheartedly support.

Lets all be nice to each other.Will this lead to a brief era of civility and bipartisanship? Maybe, but probably not. Civility, we should remember, starts at the top, and with a legion of TV pundits decrying the toxic tone of political rhetoric, I have yet to hear anyone call out President Trump for setting that tone during his campaign last year, even to the point of suggesting that “second amendment people” should act against his opponent. Then there were his entreaties from the podium to “beat the hell out of him!” at his various rallies, reminding the mob of the good old days when protesters were “carried out on a stretcher”. Oh yeah, that did happen.

And bipartisanship? I tend to agree with Chris Hayes that it doesn’t have a very positive history. I’m sure whatever this severely deranged one-time Bernie supporter intended, this act of domestic terrorism will only result in pushing forward the very agenda he professed to despise. Thanks for helping, asshole. Political fights are what democracy is all about, and acts of violence tend to take the air out of them. It’s no contradiction to sincerely wish Steve Scalise and the other victims a full and rapid recovery while at the same time holding the opinion that Scalise is a total dick on the issues. Many in Congress have trouble squaring that circle, and given the speed with which Ryan and McConnell are advancing their legislative priorities, there’s simply no time for any interval of acquiescence and deferral.

As for this moronic shooter, the only thing he accomplished was more needless bloodshed and providing additional cover for House members like Claudia Tenney not to hold public meetings.

luv u,

jp

Level nine.

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That’s not a gondola, Mitch. That’s a freaking elevator. Six weeks of screwing around, scraping up all of the coins out of our various seat cushions, and what have we got – an elevator to the center of the Earth. You don’t need an elevator to go there – the gravity will take you!

Right, well, as you can see, we’re grappling with the contradictions that fall out of having a tunnel to the Earth’s core in the basement of your squat house. I’m sure you’ve had days like that. Why is it a tunnel and not a mere hole? Well, it is the intended use of the thing that defines the thing, and it is our intent to use it as a pathway to fame and fortune … or at least, remuneration equal to the cost of a cheap sandwich at the local diner. Big Green doesn’t aim high, people – that’s why we’re looking down a hole to the center of the Earth and seeing opportunity.

And though I may have just read the riot act to Mitch, an elevator like the Giardiniera Twelve isn’t necessarily a bad thing to have when you have a hole of this type in your basement. It might prove to be damned convenient, particularly if some of the subterranean strata call for a closer look. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) can act as the operator – he’s got the right gravitas (or lack of same), and of course he’s been down the hole once already. In fact, it’s thanks to the insta-matic camera Mitch installed in Marvin’s stomach that we have any idea of what’s going on down there. Apparently, quite a lot.

Squx?Just as an example: nine levels down, there’s a cavernous opening that leads into what looks like a geological circus tent. Interestingly, the stalactites look like rhesus monkeys and the stalagmites look like sea turtles. An enterprising young robot assistant might make his or her way down there with a box of paints, go to work, and before you know it you have the Petrified Creatures Museum. Either that or the lawn ornament shop that, purely by chance, was established right next door.

That’s just one level, folks. Lots more where that came from. Get ready to crank up the pit elevator – this band is going down!

Gulf War IV.

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Yes, I know … Trump is melting down, and I should say something about it. The truth is, there’s little to say that hasn’t already been said. It’s not like the Republican Congress is going to do anything about him – far from it. They invented the freaking guy. He is their Frankenstein’s monster. If they ever pull an intervention on him, it’s going to start with, “Hello, handsome!”

You are not evil ... you are GOOD!Besides, there are more important things going on, partly as a result of having a dolt as president. The Qatar crisis is one of those things, and after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Yemen (or the Saudi controlled piece of it), and Egypt abruptly broke off diplomatic relations with the country, Trump had this to say on Twitter:

“…so good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!”

Qatar, mind you, hosts a major U.S. military base that serves as a staging area for operations in the Gulf. Setting aside for a moment the absurdity of a state like Saudi Arabia accusing someone of sponsoring terrorism, Trump’s comments appear to confirm that the U.S. gave a green light to the Gulf Cooperation Council states to pull this number. The White House subsequently backed off of the President’s drunk tweet, claiming the president had called the Qatari Emir and “emphasized the importance of all countries in the region working together to prevent the financing of terrorist organizations and stop the promotion of extremist ideology,” essentially offering to mediate. That sounds like the foreign policy establishment stepping in somewhat hurriedly to keep this from spinning out of control.

My reaction to this has been, what the fuck? I think the most reasonable explanation I’ve heard thus far was from Trita Parsi on Democracy Now!, suggesting that Saudi and its allies may have done this as a strike against Al Jazeera in advance of a renewed offensive against Iran (which just got attacked by ISIS extremists on Wednesday). Do we need a fourth Gulf War, after Iran-Iraq (1980-88), the Gulf War/Desert Storm (1991), and the Iraq War (2003 – whenever)? Apparently Trump thinks so.

This was a dramatic and disturbing departure. Not confident about what will come next.

luv u,

jp