Tuesday, November 27, 2018

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE IN THE VOTING BOOTH

So the proverbial blue wave, all but dismissed by the main-stream media on election night, keeps on rolling in. Now at +39 in the House, recounts and run-offs, oh my.

No illusions that we are free of two party duopoly, but still deliciously satisfying to see the GOP drowning in their own misogynist bile. For the first time in history, 100+ women have been elected to Congress. It would seem that Senator (future presidential contender) Flake’s compassionate intervention was not quite enough to pacify the rage women rightfully feel.

The arrogant adherence to patriarchal privilege, so shamelessly on display throughout the Kavanaugh hearings, revealed just how routine the subjugation of women is within their fold. But perhaps even more tellingly, it showcased an utter lack of ability (and a lack of desire) to communicate with women in any way that does not subjugate them.

This repulsive realization has left the GOP barely able to eek out single digit “victories” in states where they control the election process from top to bottom. It has inspired millions to reject the Party’s entitled abuse of power, to mobilize en-masse to vote, to run for office, to take democracy into their own hands.



Notably, Kansas denied “voter fraud” champion Kris Kobach his shot as governor, despite being overseer of his own election. Along similar lines, now infamous (now former, he resigned the day after declaring victory) Secretary of State Brian Kemp will become the next governor of Georgia, having engineered a vast campaign of voter suppression in the state.

Prioritizing “victory” over democracy is short-sighted and desperate, but it’s all they got. We are seeing that Republicans no longer have the numbers to win without gaming the process. Every time the GOP gets their way through subjugation and suppression, it presents an opportunity for the people to rise. They are, in fact, sowing the seeds of their own demise.

This election in Georgia should mark a turning point in the voter suppression vs. (statistically nonexistent) “voter fraud” debacle. Stacy Abrams’ no concession speech and the subsequent legal action/mobilization: another model of people taking democracy into their own hands, mobilizing not just for restoration, but for expansion of our democratic process. No concession, no compromise with those who would deny democracy to stay in power.

It might be a good time to reexamine (retire?) the whole red state/blue state polarization narrative, and who benefits from it. Harder to engineer a fraudulent 1% “victory” if the state isn’t already in your column to begin with.

Not surprisingly trump and his corporate cabal circle back the news cycle with the ouster of Jeff Sessions the very next day, seeking to send a brand new slate of progressives into a doublethink death spiral. Yes, this is Nixon 101, and yes, trump’s new AG appointment is illegal, but Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

Cognitive dissonance or doublethink? The former comes up often referencing trump, implying there is actual truth being overwritten by lies, that one chooses to believe the lie over the truth. There are certainly plenty of Republicans (and Democrats) caught in the throes of cognitive dissonance, but I don’t believe trump is concerned with truth vs. lies. He intentionally contradicts himself at every turn, to make us incapable of discerning one from the other, to get us to accept contradictory positions simultaneously, to make us susceptible to suggestion. That’s doublethink.

This is why it’s so important not to get swept up in the trump spectacle. It’s like struggling in quicksand – you just sink that much faster. The entire spectacle is a trap. Reactionary resistance is a trap. Formulating a rational response is a trap. You can’t get out once you are in, and that is the point.

So what do we gain/lose by doubling down to focus on the longevity of the Mueller investigation? What if the investigation is endless, like the fictional war in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the perfect soma distraction for a conflict narrative obsessed Democratic Party?

Fortunately, that’s not what the people voted for – it’s not what this new slate of progressive representatives ran on. I don’t think they’re gonna buy what trump’s selling, but it’s up to all of us to see beyond the distraction and help them stay true. We’ve opened a door for all of us to walk through, a crack to let the light in. The GOP will continue to divide and demonize, so start walking, and take a crowbar to that crack on your way through. Throw the door open and put out the welcome mat.

As border patrol officers tear gas migrant families, I am reading an article where Clinton, Blair and Renzi are suggesting that Europe must curb immigration to stop rightwing populists. 

NOPE.
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Related articles:
The entire White House press corps should walk out and stop indulging this bully – Jane Merrick
Brian Kemp’s Win In Georgia Is Tainted by Voter Suppression – Ari Berman

Monday, October 1, 2018

OCTOBER SURPRISE?

Marvel’s What If comic was a favorite of mine as a kid. Inserting a minor, but pivotal, change in the continuity of events usually spelled disaster for all involved. What If was all the chaos, without any of the consequences!




Will Kavanaugh get confirmed? The question on everyone’s lips. Just a few days ago many people were quite certain that he would be. It occurred to me that this answer was linked to a forgone conclusion: Republicans will stop at nothing to install him before the inevitable midterm turnover of the House and Senate.




But what if that turnover is not inevitable? What if Republicans aren’t as desperate as Democrats think? What if Democrats are once again counting their chickens before they hatch, arrogantly thinking that they have the midterms all sewn up? Have they learned nothing from 2016?

With the very future of the Republican Party on the line, and I really don’t think I am exaggerating the backlash this confirmation would engender, is it good strategy to force this candidate on the country? Are they really willing to take that risk?

What if Senator Flake’s (R) compassionate intervention is just a pathetic attempt to pacify the rage that women rightfully feel? Were you ready to shut shit down before he made that statement? How ’bout after?



What if Mueller (R) were to exonerate trump this month? What if trump barnstorms the country on a no collusion/witch hunt vindication tour: two more years of delivering on his promises, finally free of Democrat obstructionism? Plenty of time to nominate another justice... What if this is the mirror image of the ’98 midterms?

What have Democrats got to seal the deal come November 6th if they lose the collusion card? Have they settled on anything besides “not trump” in the last two years? Why does the DNC/DCCC insist on sticking it to progressive insurgents around the country? They have a real opportunity here to end the Republican Party once and for all, but then that would require actually sharing power with the people...

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Full disclosure, I am no longer a registered Dem. I dropped the D after I saw the DNC foolishly blow the 2016 election when they could have offered an unstoppable unified ticket...

Friday, February 16, 2018

STAR WARS: POWER AND PROFIT

The film is called Star Wars (The Last Jedi), it’s not going to be about peace. But I’m a sucker for allegorical sci-fi, so I just gotta go there. If you haven’t seen the film, and you don’t want ***SPOILERS*** – get off this ride now.

There are certainly some interesting ideas in this film and, as others have written, it does tend to defy expectations with its many twists and turns.

For example, women in a galaxy far far away are really good at helping men reconsider their conditioned heroic tendencies. Reconsider that their rush to sacrifice others, and even themselves, in the face of impending doom, might be a bit overzealous, or even outright unnecessary. Sadly, the story seems to continue down the same inevitable path even after the women school the men. More war, more fighting, more heroic self-sacrifice, albeit in a more gender inclusive way.

At one particularly poignant moment, Yoda tells Luke “The greatest teacher, failure is.” But our boy Luke just can’t seem to let it go. At the climax of the film, Luke delivers the rather obvious applause line, “The Rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi.” Eight films in, and the war is just beginning – good grief. Way to learn from failure Luke. Maybe things will change now that he’s moved on.

But what is most interesting to me is the way this film addresses war profiteering. Yes – that happened. A major part of the film revolves around the idea that 1% is making all their money off the wars in Star Wars, selling weapons to both sides of the conflict. A life of luxury underwritten in blood.

The film does a good job subverting the myth that weapons manufacturers are loyal to a particular faction, country, side, etc. As Benicio Del Toro’s DJ clarifies “They blow you up today, you can blow them up tomorrow. It’s just business.”


Perhaps this allegory is sufficient in a galaxy where power seems to have little interest in profit. Evil for the sake of evil, the dark side, the last Jedi must die, and all that other First Order inevitability. In our galaxy, however, war profiteer CEO’s busily escalate conflict from positions they have been appointed to, and elected to, within our own government. In our galaxy, maximizing profit and consolidating power go hand in hand. War profiteers and the powerful are not two separate entities, but one and the same.

The wars they engineer divert resources and attention, simultaneously destruction and distraction. It reminds me of something I once read about the firebombing of Dresden; the people didn’t burn to death, they died from asphyxiation when the fire consumed all of the oxygen.

So no, I don’t expect Star Wars to be about peace, but a film can be about war while also questioning our preconceptions about war.

Lucas gave it a shot in the prequels, showing us that the Wars began as a distraction, a conflict methodically engineered to consolidate power in the hands of the Emperor (Senator Palpatine/Darth Sidious). The clone army of the Republic (the “Good Guys”) ultimately becoming the (Evil) Galactic Empire’s stormtroopers...  Maybe this has something to do with why the prequels were so negatively received: it’s just not as pleasurable to cheer for your hero if you aren’t entirely sure which side you’re on.

J.J. Abrams did a bang up job infantilizing the motivation for war in Force Awakens. We all laughed as Kylo Ren threw yet another temper tantrum, and General Hux screamed ever louder in some pathetic attempt to be taken seriously. Last Jedi takes this almost satirical absurdity even further, revealing the coldly calculating war profiteers selling guns to these squabbling brats.

So when the rebellion realizes that they are in a war with a bunch of insecure adolescents, what will they do? Will the adults figure out a way to take the guns away from the children? That would make sense right? I mean unless, children killing people with guns is somehow advantageous to your bottom line.
___

Related articles:
If We Want Kids to Stop Killing, the Adults Have to Stop, Too – Matt Taibbi
STAR WARS IN THE J.J. VERSE – The Missing Point

Sunday, December 10, 2017

YOU ARE FREE

{ listen to this post on soundcloud }

Throughout my years of organizing I have witnessed many people exercising their freedom in the face of brutal oppression. The nobility of such acts was palpable, you could feel it move through a crowd, the power of people standing in solidarity. This nobility can be a potent catalyst, moving us to take action. But it can also trap us in a cycle of suffering, a belief that there can be no change without this self-sacrifice. There is a feeling of inevitability to these dynamics. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. “Freedom isn’t free.”

Of course, this “choice” to exercise one’s freedom often doesn’t look like a choice at all. When the oppressor threatens to extinguish your life, the lives of your sisters and brothers, life on the planet itself – what is that choice? Take action or die? There’s that inevitability again.

So is freedom what you win at the end of the conflict, or is it the action you take within the conflict itself? Is it only definable in contrast to the oppression, or can it exist outside of this conflict narrative?

Democrats would have you believe that they are protecting freedom from Republican attacks, while Republicans claim that government overreach is the real threat to freedom. Neither party seems particularly interested in expanding our rights, in exploring what freedom looks like beyond this circular conflict narrative.


When I wrote “THE ILLUSION OF FREEDOM” a couple years back, I was primarily concerned with how folks consider themselves “free” without ever really exercising that freedom. I encouraged them to test those inalienable rights, to find out how they work, to experience what it means to be free.

Now, after eight years of legislative compromise sold as noble self-sacrifice, I find myself wondering if we can even recognize freedom? trump’s Ministry of Truth churns out the daily doublethink, not to defend their brutality, but to make it impossible to critique. Their wanton plunder just another hostile takeover in a culture that glorifies such ruthless behavior as business savvy. Like all neoliberals, they expect you to give up everything to get something back. Freedom is Slavery.

Within this trifecta of suffering, self-sacrifice, slavery, how effective is a reactionary posture pitting freedom vs. oppression? Sure, you’re free to fight for freedom, but are you free?

I think it is essential that we not allow these bloodsucking privateers and big-brother wannabes to define the language we will use to manifest our future. Your freedom shouldn’t be commensurate upon you winning it from them, nor should it be a function of you fighting them. That’s not the way the Constitution works, no matter what Minitrue said yesterday. “Congress shall make no law...” And the president? Not even a member of the legislative branch. Those rights are yours – You Are Free.

___

I’ve been signing my letters “You Are Free” for years now, a gentle reminder to exercise your freedom. I mocked up artwork for a button (above), drifting from computer to computer on the backburner. Want one? Send me your address.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I CAN’T VOTE TODAY – OR CAN I?

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks now, I wanted to get it out there before any more time passes. I have yet to contact The New York Board of Elections or whomever else I may need to in order to more clearly understand the ramifications of what I am about to share, and what it means for New York State elections going forward. So New Yorkers – PLEASE get on the horn, followup, and let me know what you dig up. It’s your vote – use it wisely.

On September 12th, many of my friends were proudly displaying their “I voted” stickers and urging others to get out the vote. In response I wrote into the algorithmic void, “I appreciate my many friends mobilizing to GOTV, but just a reminder that if you are not registered in one of the two major parties, there is no vote today. #Democracy #CountEveryVote #OpenPrimaries”


This would be the first time since I could vote, that I would not vote, relegated to the undemocratic limbo that New York’s independent voters find themselves in every primary day.

I have heard the argument more than once that the parties should have autonomy over who they want to nominate. Given that all things were equal, I could see some validity to this, but all things are not equal. Come November a third of the state’s registered voters will be expected to choose from candidates whose nomination process they have no say in. The choice between the two major party nominees will be all but sewn up before these independents even cast their votes. Coke or Pepsi.

At least that’s how it was a moment ago. What what?

Walking by my polling place, a man asked if I was voting today. I answered that I could not vote today, and he quickly moved on. I felt very solitary in this statement, as if my saying it aloud made it that much more real. I wasn’t really sure what would happen if I tried to vote. I had read something earlier in the day about people voting using a Reform Party ballot, and then it occurred to me that I could just go inside and ask if there was any way for me to vote today. So that is what I did.

The first poll worker I spoke to asked my name, and found me in his book. We talked a bit about my no longer being a registered Democrat. He suggested that I go to the table corresponding to my Election District and see if I was still in the book there, perhaps still listed as a Democrat... When I inquired about the Reform Party ballot he suggested that I talk to another poll worker who was more versed on the specifics.

I was able to ask that poll worker, at another table, specifically how I might vote today. After I explained my situation, she told me I had two options. I could vote by affidavit with a Democratic Party ballot, which I knew would ultimately not be counted since I was no longer a Democrat. Or I could vote using the Reform Party ballot. She had samples of the two ballots there so I could see them, and she explained (paraphrasing here) that I could actually fill out the ballot up to three times, if I wanted to test the process, without actually casting my vote.

Unlike the fully stocked Democratic ballot, the Reform ballot only had two candidates, one for New York City Mayor, and one for Brooklyn Borough President. But more importantly the ballot had a blank space for write ins under each of the candidates endorsed by the Reform Party. So, it appeared that I actually could vote today, but only for these two offices.

I then went to the table corresponding to my Election District and they looked up my name in the book. Along side my name was the acronym BLA, which the two poll workers explained to me was “Blank.” They told me that they had received no training to handle this situation, that they were informed about the Reform Party ballot just that morning. There was a one sheet adhered to the table that instructed them to give a Reform Party ballot to anyone listed as BLA in the book. This was the key apparently, you had to NOT be enrolled in any other party (besides Reform Party, of course) to vote using the Reform Party ballot. I signed the book, and they gave me the ballot.

So now I could write in whomever I wanted for these two offices. I decided that I would test this thing out by voting for someone that I would be able to track in the results – myself. I wrote in Thomas Gallagher for Mayor and Marcel Duchamp for Brooklyn Borough President.

When I took my filled out ballot to the scanner, I asked that poll worker how the machine would count my write in votes. He explained that it would record that I had voted, and someone would come at the end of the day to record the write ins by hand. He informed me that these results would be posted on the Board of Elections website in about two weeks.

I put it on my calendar and lo and behold:

So what is the take away? Well, it appears that unaffiliated independent voters can vote for whoever they wish in the primary using the Reform Party ballot. This appears to be a function of the Reform Party charter, rather than statewide election law. To be clear, these votes determine who the Reform Party candidates will be, completely separate from the Democratic and Republican primary process. So it isn’t actually an open primary, but it is certainly a crack in the ice.

Could this be leveraged to present a challenge to the state’s two party duopoly? Even if the Reform Party will accept whoever gets the most votes as their nominee, what are the ramifications of independents en masse fortifying the Reform Party line by using this option? Could this be expanded upon by other third parties? Perhaps I will be able to vote for more than two offices in the next primary...

For those that are wondering, Marcel Duchamp didn’t get recorded as a write in for Brooklyn Borough President. I see one vote noted as “UNATTRIBUTABLE WRITE-IN (WRITE-IN)” and then ultimately listed as “Unrecorded.” I believe this is my vote. For those unfamiliar, Duchamp is widely regarded as the godfather of modern art. He died in 1968.

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Related:

Reform Party gives state its first open primaries – Times Union

Curtis Sliwa discusses New York State Reform Party – video

Friday, October 6, 2017

MADE IN AMERICA

 

Rather than writing a new post, I designed this graphic to call out the elephant in the room (the missing point). Please credit Forth Position Design when sharing it. Possible hashtags: #WeaponsIndustry #ArmsDealers #WarProfiteers #ConflictNarrative #AmericaFirst #GunControl #2ndAmendment #NRA #ThoughtsAndPrayers #LasVegasShooting #MadeInAmerica

Two earlier pieces that are sadly just as relevant now as when I wrote them several years ago: PAYING FOR WAR and Are we courageous enough to face the why?

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Related:

“They Don’t Care Who the Guns Go To”: Experts Warn Trump Admin. Plans to Widen U.S. Weapons Exports – Democracy Now!

Intercepted Podcast: Guns Before Country – The Intercept

Friday, August 11, 2017

WAR – IS THAT ALL YOU GOT AMERICA?

Button pusher trump is waxing poetic about “fire and fury,” talking tough (but apparently “not tough enough”), stealing lines from Harry S. Truman following the US bombing of Hiroshima. Privatizer in chief’s commentary comes practically 72 years to the day after Truman’s address.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening, beyond a normal statement. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before. Thank you.”

– trump, August 8th, 2017 

“If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this Earth.”

– Truman, August 6, 1945

  
It’s simultaneously horrifying and absurd, like so much of the garbage that has come out of this administration and trump’s mouth. Is this a big game for trump, watching file tapes of former famous and infamous president’s, mimicking their moves so as to seem presidential? Is this administration really so completely devoid of direction that all they can do is dismantle and destroy?

I’ve found it challenging to discuss republican policy over the years. When I would say that they have none, I was often met with a quick rebuttal, citing all the damage republican policies had wrought. True enough, but underneath it all, there was never really any intention on the part of republicans to do anything in the interest of the people. They had no plan for the common good. And I always felt that this was the place to hit them, not to continuously indulge them by discussing the merits of their non-existant “plans.”

The bluster and nonsense we have seen with the recent republican health care debacle shows this plainly enough. By any measure, their health care plan really isn’t a health care plan at all. To be clear, it is NOT a plan to provide health care – it is another codification of tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us, another package of privatization giveaways to trump’s crony capitalist cabinet pals.





Certainly, the republican (or democrat, neo-liberal, neo-conservative, take your pick) free market solves everything gang, has a playbook that they follow. But it is the same play EVERY TIME. One could call this a plan, but it really is more of a scheme isn’t it? With an avowed snake oil salesman in the white house, shouldn’t we expect to be taken for a ride every single time? Why would anyone give this guy the benefit of the doubt – ever? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice...





Back in 2003, Condi got us all going (well, not all of us) with that proof in the shape of a mushroom cloud thing. Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to jump on the bandwagon this time? Lest we forget, it was the bush administration that branded North Korea along with Iraq and Iran as the “Axis of Evil.”

So what about war? Well it really is the only thing we have going for us right now isn’t it? I mean, what other American export even comes close? Weapons are big business (JOBS JOBS JOBS!), and trump is the perfect instrument to tout our weapons superiority. We got nukes, and they are the best nukes. Sure North Korea has nukes now too (I’m sure Condi can verify this for us), but we have the BEST of the best!


 


Of course the weapons deals didn’t start with trump, but he sure knows how to close doesn’t he? Saudi Arabia escapes trump’s muslim ban list to the tune of $110 billion. He’s well on his way to beating the previous $115 billion record set during the Obama administration!





Cooler heads must prevail, the foxes are in the henhouse, where’s the revolution?



___

Related:

Forget Russia. Is Provoking a Nuclear War with North Korea Grounds for Impeachment? – Democracy Now!

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Urges Trump to Privatize Afghan War & Install Viceroy to Run Nation – Democracy Now!

Atlas Golfed — U.S.-Backed Think Tanks Target Latin America – The Intercept

Friday, May 26, 2017

WAR IS PEACE or WHO IS READING 1984 TO TRUMP AT BEDTIME?

I saw a brilliant segment on Democracy Now! yesterday – Scahill & Greenwald: What If All Victims of War Received the Media Attention of Manchester Victims? Today DN! posted a related article by Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan – Let the Media Coverage of Manchester Victims Be a Model for All Young Victims of War. Both pieces point to the disturbing way our media disappears the fundamental role of US intervention in wars around the world. Watching trump visiting the Pope, days after sealing a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, had me once again thinking about how this administration deploys the Nineteen Eighty-Four concept of DOUBLETHINK, on a grand scale, and on an international stage.

Been a while since you last read Nineteen Eighty-Four? Now would be a good time.

DOUBLETHINK means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of DOUBLETHINK he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. DOUBLETHINK lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word DOUBLETHINK it is necessary to exercise DOUBLETHINK. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of DOUBLETHINK one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth. 

Upon leaving the Vatican trump tweeted:

Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.

trump presented the Pope with a set of Martin Luther King’s writings. Cause, you know, this Jesuit Pope needs to bone up on the evils of militarism, capitalism, and racism. Actually, it’s more likely just a cynical reference to the Pope’s 2015 address to the United States Congress: 

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

And here is the Pope so eloquently sticking it to all the war profiteers in Congress during that same address:

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

The Pope presented trump with a copy of his 2017 World Day of Peace message on nonviolence, commenting “I signed it personally for you.”

I was pretty amazed when the Pope got to come to the US Congress and talk shit about America’s #1 export – WAR. Seems like the Vatican had no choice but to allow trump the same courtesy. Sticking it to the Pope like only a snake oil salesman can. Just look at that smile!

“That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.” WAR IS PEACE.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

POTUS: PRIVATIZER OF THE UNITED STATES three steps to undermining the trump agenda

You know things are bad when people are willing to get their medicine from the snake oil salesman. Huckster, hustler, button pusher, scammer, scoundrel, swindler. Whatever you want to call this guy, there is one single word that should be inextricably linked to his name and his brand of snake oil:

Privatization.

Say it with me now: pri-vat-iz-a-tion (prī-və-tə-ˈzā-shən). Get used to saying it. Every time he tweets – #privatization. Every time he has a rally – privatization. Every time he signs another baby’s first executive order – privatization.



The basic is this: neoliberals were chomping at the bit to privatize every government program they could get their greedy hands on long before this guy entered the race. And in classic Newspeak fashion they’ve provided an out of control anti-establishment champion for everyone to hate as cover for the installation of an entirely corporate cabinet. Doubleplusungood.



Let’s be clear here, this is no longer simply the fox guarding the henhouse. This is not about lobbyists writing legislation, or corporate kickbacks, or pay for play – this is about putting corporate executives directly in control of our government.

Sure, they’ll continue to tow the party line: smaller government, lower taxes, reduce the deficit, government corruption and reform (“drain the swamp”), but keep your eye on the ball. Will this administration really use their power to do away with all of those “bloated bureaucratic agencies” or will they simply use the existing infrastructure to reroute all those tax payer dollars into their own pockets?

So why are so many willing to accept this clear conflict of interest?

Well, you see, we’ve got this thing in the States, a straight up hard on for guys in suits that can put one over on everyone around them, take advantage of every poor sucker along the way. We put these folks on the cover of Fortune and Forbes and call them “the smartest guys in the room.”

This guy may not look like them, you may not even think he’s smart enough to be them, but that’s the genius of it. This snake oil salesman is selling the appearance of wealth. He’s been pushing his get rich quick schemes on late night TV for decades. His string of bankruptcies might give the impression that he’s been a failure at this game, but nobody called Jamie Dimon a failure when we bailed his ass out.

Everyone else in the world – yeah, pretty much everyone, calls this thing they are doing “austerity.” In a nutshell – those in power engineer a crisis, financial or otherwise, and then blame some other folks in power for doing an inadequate job handling the crisis.

Here’s where it gets fun – they’ll claim that the crisis, and the inadequate response, is proof of a systemic failure and call for reform. This reform is always the privitization of the existing system. This privatization involves tax payer money being allocated to them and their private companies in place of the public institutions that normally handle the job. They claim that privatization will be more efficient and yield a greater return on taxpayer investment.

Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? Problem is, once they get that fat government check, they’re free to welsh on the job or do it in such a substandard manner as to escalate the crisis, leading to further privatization...

Of course, blowing all this tax payer money on nothing means that every time the people want something for their taxes, the powers that be can claim that there just isn’t enough to go around, salaries are too high, benefits must be cut, we all have to make sacrifices. All smiles across the aisle.

There is one more essential step in the neoliberal crisis capitalism playbook – they’re going to offer you, your city, your country, a loan. A loan to make up for all that revenue they just swindled you out of, all those resources they gobbled up, and all that public land they privatized. And with a smile and a handshake they’ll snap on the shackles of debt, turning you into a product they can buy and sell on the market. That’s austerity, and it’s right here in the good ole US of A, even if we’re all too cranked up on conflict narrative culture to see it.

So if the snake oil salesman is respected by the people specifically for his ability to get over on the people, how does one mobilize the people in their own best interest? Well, if exposing his duplicity only serves to further validate his prowess, then perhaps a less direct, less confrontational approach is needed. The anti-globalization movement’s “¡Basta!” and a phrase I often heard repeated at OWS, “I would prefer not to,” come to mind. I recall messaging discussions concerning the framing of 2003 The World Says No To War demonstrations as a rejection of business as usual, a principled stand, a withdrawal of consent.



With this in mind I’d like to propose a basic three step outline for undermining the strategy of domination through privatization. I am hoping that it provides a simple starting point for other organizers and media folks to build upon, a focus beyond the fractured reactionary response being scripted for us.

1 ) Take a closer look at the government agencies under threat of privatization. Start with the cabinet level offices and work out from there. What do these agencies actually do? Who are the appointees that will lead these agencies in this administration? How will their positions benefit them and their corporate interests? How will the agency infrastructure be used to redirect tax payer money?

2 ) Given that these agencies may now be used to oppress rather than to protect, what alternatives can we come up with in light of this privatization? This is a tricky thing to propose, because the administration would like nothing better than for us to cede complete authority to them in all these areas. But if they have taken control of the government, we really need to start coming up with alternatives that are insulated from their influence.

3 ) Make these alternatives viable, accessible, and desirable. This may involve the redirection of public funds toward alternatives to privatized government programs, a mass mobilization involving divestment and reinvestment focused on a withdrawal of consent. Not just boycotts and strikes, but the work of building viable alternatives to replace the existing dependencies.

Move Your Money is an example of one such alternative mobilization. The campaign was pretty successful, with individuals, unions, and whole municipalities moving their money from predatory big banks and financial institutions into local credit unions and community banks. Just recently, the Seattle City Council voted to divest $3 billion from Wells Fargo over the bank’s backing of the Dakota Access pipeline.

Most notably, the campaign wasn’t presented simply as an ethical imperative, but as a practical benefit. Moving one’s money from a bank that charges outrageous fees with no interest to one that offers free checking with interest is obviously attractive. The key then is accessibility. Is there a local credit union office in the neighborhood? Is one’s money accessible through ATM’s in the neighborhood? Could that vacant building next to the check cashing place be secured to house a new credit union office, providing an obvious visible alternative at the point of interaction? These are the kinds of details that must be addressed to encourage people to withdraw their consent, while simultaneously helping themselves.

There is enormous opportunity to mobilize the people through a desire for what they want, rather than simply controlling them through fear and desperation. This is, at its core, about replacing a narrative of scarcity and strife, with one of agency and empowerment. If this (s)election told us anything, it is that the people would rather vote for something than for nothing at all. The snake oil salesman only has power if we keep buying what he is selling. And privatization really is about selling you what was yours to begin with. Withdraw your consent and take it back.
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Related articles:
Is Your Bank Funding DAPL? Here’s How to Find One That Isn’t – Gerald Mitchell
Trump’s Crony Cabinet May Look Strong, but They Are Scared – Naomi Klein
Donald Trump’s Executive Order Will Let Private Equity Funds Drain Your 401(k) – David Dayen

Here's How We Prepare to Be Ungovernable in 2017 – Sarah Lazare 
Intercepted Podcast: The Clock Strikes 13, and Donald Trump Is President – The Intercept

Saturday, November 19, 2016

THE ECONOMY, STUPID (THE BLAME GAME)

Over the last week I have read more articles than I can count, critique of the election outcome and critique of the critique... like the reflection of a mirror in a mirror in a mirror...

Much of what I’ve read is a visceral response to the shocking victory of a candidate whose hate spewing rhetoric endangers the very population he has been (s)elected to lead. If you read The Missing Point with any frequency, you may understand why I am shocked by, but not surprised at this outcome. There are plenty of articles with detailed analysis of what it means that a racist, misogynist, xenophobe, has just been elected president, this is not one of them.

And then there are the blame game pieces, chasing (casting) shadows in a pathetic attempt to save face, to cast the DNC and the Clinton campaign as hapless victims after the fact, as if no one was aware that decades of neglect and economic devastation might be a factor in the 2016 election. I’ve seen this written about as sidebar to, and as response to, the previous articles I mentioned. What is disturbing here is that these ideas are mostly being written about in a dualistic fashion; essentially, racism/misogyny/xenophobia vs. economics, as if the very mention of economic factors is some sort of defacto negation or blanket appeasement of systemic racism, sexism, xenophobia, etc.

Perhaps we should try a little harder not to fall into a conflict narrative trap that ultimately benefits the ruling class. They would like nothing better than to see us escalate the battle over whose particular oppression is the more righteous cause. Desperation born of oppression can lead to volatile results, and 1% is always looking for an opportunity to “save the day” and secure their power.

Is there a way that we can attend to all our needs, rather than elevate one at the expense of the other? What can we do to empower one another so that our people can break free of this existential threat requires patriarchal savior paradigm?

The decimation of the middle class didn’t start with the crash in 2008. It’s been 22 years since NAFTA went into effect, but it was in negotiation even before Bill Clinton took office. 22 years of Democrats and Republicans pushing free market/free trade neoliberalism while the country bleeds jobs, benefits, retirement, anything and everything that we used to call the American Dream.


Jimmy Carville’s legendary Clinton War Room sign from 1992

The democrats have run on a protectionist platform for multiple election cycles, promising to secure the gains we have made. Women’s right to choose, civil rights, voting rights, immigrant rights, LGBT rights... But their steadfast protection of these rights does little to address the free market economic free fall that has been going on for decades. Insuring equal access to the pie doesn’t really work when there’s no pie to begin with.

Say you live in one of the rust belt states. The factory, or the mine, that practically the entire town worked in, has been closed for more than a decade. If you’re not unemployed, you’re likely living paycheck to paycheck, careful not to rock the boat cause service jobs are hard to come by. Hell, if it weren’t for the prison, there wouldn’t be enough income in the town to keep the Walmart going. You can barely keep up with the interest payments on your mortgage, if you still have your home. Maybe someone in your family is fighting an illness, and you can’t afford the care they need. You are praying that they are going to pull through.

You hear democrats on the TV saying that they are going to fight to protect the gains we’ve made. You’re not sure what the hell gains they are talking about. Their slogan is “Fighting For Us,” but you don’t feel like that us includes you. You heard from a friend at work that their candidate called you a racist, a bigot, a “deplorable.” You don’t think you’re any of those things. You’d tell them so, but they never come to your town. Your former union sends you a flyer that says “I’m with her.”

Along comes a snake oil salesman. Everyone you know is coming out to hear him speak. You’ve seen him before, he’s been pushing get rich quick schemes every night on the TV for as long as you can remember. He’s got a book called “The Art of the Deal,” which he brings up at every opportunity. He says he will “entirely renegotiate NAFTA,” which he calls the “worst trade deal in history.” Everyone at the rally is wearing those red hats that say “Make America Great Again.”

When Bernie Sanders was winning rural and rust belt primaries, the mainstream media pointed out that these were white male voters, that he wouldn’t be able to mobilize the Obama Coalition. No stories about how the democrats had ceded these poor white voters to the Republicans years ago, choosing to focus exclusively on the (fading fast) “middle class.” Rather than looking at this as a potential reintegration along economic class lines, similar to MLK’s Poor People’s Campaign, the DNC used these wins to reinforce the narrative that people of color were already on board with the presumptive nominee.

Looking at the initial results after the election, it would appear that this strategy failed to produce the DNC’s expected outcome. While Republican party vote totals were similar to prior presidential elections, Democrat numbers dropped markedly. It is easy to correlate this drop to lower voter turnout (voter suppression?) in communities of color, but focusing on this racial polarization narrative may be counterproductive. Poor whites may have been more likely to vote Republican in 2016 than poor blacks and latinos, for obvious reasons that have been covered ad infinitum, but there is a common thread that the status quo blame game is bending over backward to avoid dealing with:

Given that the election results are accurate, poor people, across the board, were even less likely to vote Democrat in the 2016 general election.

In a year of anti-establishment populist uprising, righteous reaction to decades of suffering from bi-partisan neoliberal austerity policies, the Democratic party establishment chose a candidate that only offered more of the same.

This should have been obvious. Why was it not? Who benefits from this narrative?
___

Related articles:
Three Myths About Clinton’s Defeat in Election 2016 Debunked – Lambert Strether
The Clinton Campaign Was Undone By Its Own Neglect And A Touch Of Arrogance, Staffers Say – Sam Stein
Democrats, Trump, and the Ongoing, Dangerous Refusal to Learn the Lesson of Brexit – Glenn Greenwald
Goodbye, American neoliberalism. A new era is here – Cornel West

And a related video:
President Trump: How & Why – Jonathan Pie

Monday, October 31, 2016

THIS ISN’T LEADERSHIP – WHERE’S OBAMA?

And understand this, if American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America.

It isn’t the first time I’ve referenced this line from Barrack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. Where was Obama when Wisconsin workers’ “right to organize and collectively bargain” was under attack? Where was he when Republicans were gutting democracy in multiple Michigan cities through an “emergency manager” privatization scheme, resulting (most visibly) in the Flint water crisis? Where was he when Occupy Wall Street was being forcibly and systematically suppressed all over the country? Where was he when the people were demanding justice in Ferguson?

I marched with 40,000 people in DC to tell Obama to say NO! to Keystone XL Pipeline, even though I had no faith
in Obama’s resolve to move away from his “all of the above” (“clean” coal, fracked gas, new nuclear plants!) energy strategy. Now that KXL has shell game shape shifted into DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline), where’s Obama? A private corporation is essentially invading the sovereign land of the Sioux Nation with the assistance of local law enforcement and the National Guard – where’s Obama?

Jill Stein stands with the Standing Rock water protectors. Bernie Sanders has come out vocally against DAPL. And Clinton? A popular meme answers “crickets.”




For almost eight years, any critique of the current administration has been countered with the polarization narrative. Essentially, Obama was a progressive that simply did not anticipate the resistance he would receive as president. Furthermore, it is amazing that he has been able to accomplish all that he has in the face of such overwhelming Republican opposition and obstruction. The problem with this narrative is that it assumes that Obama was actually a progressive to begin with, that he was actually a man of the people, and not a product of Chicago school free market ideology.

Here’s the thing: Obama’s strategy of pragmatic across the aisle compromise is not really about change, it’s about getting you to believe that the only reasonable course of action is to accept the inevitable, to make the best deal you can under the circumstances, rather than mobilize for something you actually want.

A “progressive that gets things done” Clinton administration will likely rely even more heavily on the polarization narrative, to explain away why they can’t enact progressive policy proposals that currently enjoy wide popular support. If only we had the majority in the House, if only we had 60 votes in the Senate, if only we weren’t spending all our time defending the President against these outrageous Republican attacks...

And this is why, as much as I can recognize the potential of the President standing up to stop the oppression of the Standing Rock water protectors, as much as I recognize the potential of Obama and Clinton showing true leadership at this historic moment, I understand why they cannot. Put simply, neoliberals have no interest in supporting a popular people’s movement whose success would undermine their authority, disrupting their carefully balanced polarization narrative.
 

I know youve heard this song from Washington before. I know youve often heard grand promises that sound good but rarely materialize. And each time, youre told this time will be different. But over the last few years, Ive had a chance to speak with Native American leaders across the country about the challenges you face, and those conversations have been deeply important to me.

I get it. Im on your side. I understand what it means to be an outsider. I was born to a teenage mother. My father left when I was two years old, leaving her -- my mother and my grandparents to raise me. We didnt have much. We moved around a lot. So even though our experiences are different, I understand what it means to be on the outside looking in. I know what it means to feel ignored and forgotten, and what it means to struggle. So you will not be forgotten as long as Im in this White House.
  
Prove me wrong Obama. Put on those comfortable shoes and make history.
___

Related articles:
How to Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective – Kelly Hayes

A Shameful Moment for This Country: Report Back on Militarized Police Raid of DAPL Resistance Camp – Democracy Now!
Indigenous Youth Occupy Hillary Clinton Campaign Headquarters to Demand She Take Stand on #DAPL
– Democracy Now!

Monday, September 19, 2016

COKE OR PEPSI REVISITED – OPEN THE DEBATES!

The first presidential debate of the 2016 election cycle will take place next Monday, September 26th at Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY). How many candidates will appear in this debate?

Why is the presidential debate important regardless of the outcome of the vote?

One – the Bernie Sanders campaign clearly showed it is possible to run an issues based presidential campaign, and garner wide support from the electorate. Bernie presented a plain spoken challenge to the establishment that transcended their “vote for the lesser evil” conflict narrative, shifting the dialogue from a restrictive vision of what we don’t want to a dynamic vision of what we do. Clinton paid lip service to this idea at a news conference she held after her recent bout with pneumonia, but it is unlikely she will transcend this fear based narrative in the upcoming debate.

Two – the presidential debates are particularly important to the large segment of the electorate not involved in the primary process, that wait until late in the electoral cycle to decide who they will vote for. 129 million voted in the 2012 general election, while only 28 million voted in the primaries that year. 67 million people watched the first debate of 2012, 10 million more than cast votes in the entire 2016 primary. The debate offers a unique opportunity for the candidates to introduce themselves and outline the policies they wish to enact, provided they are allowed to participate...

Listening to Sanders warn against casting a “protest vote,” I can’t help but think of his critique of superdelegates, repeatedly citing how more than 400 had pledged to back Clinton before his campaign even began. Is this fundamentally different from how the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has preemptively excluded third party candidates from participating in the upcoming debate, before the vast majority of the electorate has even had a chance to hear their positions?

The CPD is a private corporation started by former heads of the Democratic and Republican National Committees. It replaced the League of Women Voters in 1988 and has been sole sponsor of every presidential debate since that time.

The LWV press release from October 3rd, 1988 reads:

“The League of Women Voters is withdrawing its sponsorship of the presidential debate scheduled for mid-October because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter,” League President Nancy M. Neuman said today.
“It has become clear to us that the candidates’ organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions,” Neuman said. “The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”
 
The CPD decides the format of the debate, what topics will be “debated,” and who gets to debate. Yes, the folks already in the debate decide who gets to debate, and who does not – a conflict of interest? 

Level the Playing Field in conjunction with the Green Party of The United States and Libertarian National Committee filed a lawsuit against the Federal Elections Commission in June of 2015. The following is just one point from the lawsuit – you can read the document in its entirety here.

3. This case concerns violations of federal law by two institutions the Democratic and Republican parties have used to perpetuate their duopoly: the Commission on Presidential Debates (“CPD”), an organization the two parties created for the express purpose of keeping third-party and independent candidates out of debates, and the Federal Election Commission (“FEC”), a “bipartisan” agency run by members of the two major parties, which refuses to carry out its statutory mandate to enforce the federal election laws that the CPD is blatantly violating.

With little fanfare, the lawsuit was dismissed last month by George W. Bush appointed U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer.


Forth Position Design created the above graphic in order to highlight two points that might become more apparent if we had open debates.

Weapons dealer: Secretary Clinton’s approval of transfers (sales) of weapons from United States based manufacturers to countries/governments that the US State Department has criticized for human rights abuses is disturbing, especially when both the companies and the countries involved in these transactions have donated large sums to the Clinton Foundation. Repeatedly pointing out that donors to the Clinton Foundation did not get highly coveted meetings with the Secretary does not address this issue.

Button Pusher: Trump really has no definable policy positions, his campaign exists solely as a reactionary response. His racist, sexist, xenophobic remarks appeal to an audience conditioned to quell their own feelings of powerlessness by attacking “others.” The entire spectacle is ultimately just another self aggrandizement scheme, tracking back to Trump & the Trump brand. If the contrast between the candidates is essentially policy vs. no policy, does it really qualify as a “debate”?

If we really believe in this democracy thing, then we should make the changes necessary to insure that it is actually possible – open debates, instant runoff voting, automatic voter registration, to name a few. The conflict is a distraction, to limit knowledge that could neutralize their dualistic narrative. It’s easy to keep one person out of the debates, it’s much harder to convince an informed public that you are the one and only “choice.” More voices – more choices – open the debates.
___

I wrote a piece in 2012 calling for the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) to recuse itself for conflict of interest. They didn’t. I guess they don’t read my blog.
___

Related articles:
Two-Party Tyranny: Ralph Nader on Exclusion of Third-Party Candidates from First Presidential Debate – Democracy Now!
There’s No Debate – Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
Only 9% of America Chose Trump and Clinton as the Nominees – Alicia Parlapiano and Adam Pearce

Sunday, August 7, 2016

STAR TREK – BEYOND THE CONFLICT NARRATIVE

I should like this new Star Trek film: Star Trek Beyond. After all, it’s wrapped around an idea that is core to my writing at The Missing Point. If you haven’t seen the film yet, you might want do that before reading further... or not.  **SPOILERS BELOW**

I should like this film, but I don’t. Ever since J.J. Abrams “rebooted” the franchise, creating an alternate timeline outside Star Trek canon, Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry’s essential ethos has been more set dressing than central theme. For me, this ethos has always been one of transcendence, a vision of humanity’s future beyond the petty conflicts we presently use to define our existence.

Gene’s vision has, at times, proven difficult for Star Trek writers to embrace. It doesn’t fit into a western narrative structure defined by conflict:

Ok – so what kind of story would it be without the conflict? Would it be a story at all? English 101 instructs that a story has a beginning, middle, and an end. This is referred to as the three-act structure: Setup (exposition), Confrontation (conflict), and Resolution. Accordingly, the conflict moves the plot forward and fuels the reader’s interest. It is the central feature of the dramatic arc, building tension and leading to the climax of the story. Man against man, man against society, man against nature, man against self – this is our accepted model of narrative structure. No conflict – no story.

Star Trek boldly asks, what does a story look like that begins on the other side of this dramatic arc?

Some of the best Trek, cheats this a bit by backtracking into conflict in order to showcase the transcendence itself, rather than purely focusing on a vision of what follows. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, a particular favorite of mine, is an excellent example of this.

In that film, director Nicholas Meyer cast Kirk himself as the character that must transcend his own prejudice and hatred. This thematic choice was met with protest from both William Shatner and Gene Rodenberry; Shatner objecting to Kirk exhibiting this kind of naked prejudice, and Gene objecting to the very presence of prejudice in a Star Trek film. Again, Gene’s vision begins after humanity has transcended prejudice, greed, hunger, war, etc.

The new film, Beyond, presents a dualistic narrative pitting “unity” against “struggle.” Three years into their Five Year Mission, an exhausted crew is confronted by a ruthless adversary, who pointedly argues that strength only comes through struggle, that unity makes the Federation weak. And of course, this adversary, Krall, is hell bent on destroying the Federation to prove his point. Much later in the film the crew uncovers that Krall is one of our own, a soldier who cannot let go of the long fought wars preceding the Federation’s formation.

There are a number of similarities between this new film and Star Trek VI. The adversary in STVI also turns out to be one of our own, an entire cabal of politicians and generals in fact, who prefer their familiarity with war to their uncertainty of peace. But STVI goes deeper to reveal the enemy within – Kirk’s prejudice, and how it blinds him to the true motivations behind the unfolding events.

The adversary in Beyond is certainly not the first Star Trek villain to be presented as beyond the reach of reconciliation, but given this film’s emphasis on the distinction between “unity” and “struggle,” it seems odd that the Federation crew would seek to resolve the conflict through more struggle. An argument could be made that it is the “unity” of the crew that allows them to prevail in this conflict, but ultimately it is Kirk that confronts this too far gone enemy in a knock down drag out fist fight. Again, not particularly uncharacteristic for Kirk, but also not particularly indicative of United Federation ideals either.

Is the Federation, and Star Trek in general, simply a vision of unity in the face of adversity, against a common foe? What about Gene’s vision of unity for the sake of the common good?

Krall’s backstory provides an opportunity for this “united” Federation to show what it really takes to make peace, to take responsibility for the chaos our wars create. We train our soldiers to be killers, to set their humanity aside, symbolically shown through Krall’s monstrous transformation. How do we bring them back into the fold once the war has ended? Is there really no possibility for resolution or reconciliation here? Is the only solution to destroy the monster we have created in order to save ourselves? Is there honor in this? Is this the message of Star Trek Beyond?

While I found the dualistic narrative presented in beyond lacking, it does feel strangely appropriate for our time. People around the world are refusing to fall into line with the fear based neoliberal narratives used to control them. Here in the States, Bernie Sanders ran on the slogan “A Future to Believe In.” Hillary Clinton went with the perennially popular “Fighting for us.” Now we are all supposed to be “Stronger Together.” Stronger than what? Stronger than who? In order to do what? Do we really need a common enemy to define our unity? Perhaps we should start thinking about how we might address the needs of the people beyond the conflict narrative, from the other side of that dramatic arc.

As Kirk says in STVI – “People can be very frightened of change.”



Gets me every time.
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Want MORE Trek? Check out our latest Missing Point video!

Related posts on The Missing Point:
CONFLICT NARRATIVES AND THEIR POWER TO INFLUENCE
Are we courageous enough to face the why?
WHY ARE WE SO SURPRISED?
AFTER THE MARCH