Don’t Mourn, Organize!

I am as sad today as I have ever been about the state of our nation.  But luckily for me I am a student of history, and I recall the dying words of Joe Hill, an organizer from the early 20th century:

 “Don’t mourn, organize!”

Let his words carry you forward as we send these cretins packing.

Mobilized is a site dedicated to building the foundation for a better society.  One that is more fair to all life, human and otherwise.  And so we have made efforts to avoid politics and focus on offering solutions here.  Yet to build a proper foundation, one must always clear away obstacles and level the ground.  It’s sadly the case in the United States of America, and many other countries, that the ground is littered with pebbles, stones, and giant chunks of granite.  So it falls to me to take a moment to get out a backhoe, and work to remove the obstacles.  Which is why I am today taking on the bums who seek to destroy citizens rights to Privacy and Bodily Autonomy.
We saw them pervert the legal process to take away women’s rights and we know from their own words that they intend to do far more harm to the public.  Those goals, if enacted, would also prevent Mobilized from achieving any of its’ goals.  That’s why, with apologies, I am making this essay very, very partisan and nakedly political.

A couple of points to ponder –
  • I note that on Friday evening, I took lots of video footage of the protest rallies that erupted after Roe v. Wade was overturned unjustly.  One reel is simply 8 minutes of protestors marching.  At about 50 people for every 10 seconds, that rate indicates  thousands were in attendance.  There was, as well, a totally different rally at the Federal Courthouse… and one that had spontaneously closed Market St. before all 3 groups converged around 7pm.
  • I mention the crowd size to note – – that’s far larger than the size of the crowd that attacked the Capitol on 1-6-21 yet  not one personal went to jail yesterday. Non-violent civil disobedience works.
  • In contrast, some hate-filled bigot ran his monster truck into the protestors in Iowa yesterday.  The Christo-Fascists resort to violence as their first choice nowadays.  There is no need to stoop to their level.
So, reader, you are not alone.  Once again, America is under threat from Theocratic wannabe dictators, and once again we shall defeat them.
What to do?  Well the most obvious thing is to utterly defeat the GOP in the Senate and in the House.  Every one of us should be taking every extra bit of time and/or money we have and putting it towards that goal.  But that’s just one option.  Here I am compiling some stuff I wrote earlier:
FLOOD. THE. ZONE.
  • Biden can act, now: Send federalized government doctors to all 50 states to solely perform abortions.  Setup free clinics on Federal Lands in each Gilead-State.  Let the GQP howl and piss and tie the bastards up forcing them to file endless lawsuits.
  • The Congress can act, now: Pass the 49-years late codification of RvW into law.  At a minimum put these f**kers on record, force them to vote publicly.  End the filibuster and pass it anyhow.  Also pass Universal Healthcare, so that women could actually afford to have kids and not even need abortions.
  •  The DC administration can act, now: 38 states have ratified the ERA, it is a goddamn constitutional amendment already.  It solely needs the bureaucrats to do the final steps to make it a law.  The Congress has no role in that, cannot oppose it in any way because their role has been done for years.  The states finished ratifying it 2+ years ago, so the only hurdle remaining is recording it into the record.  Once complete, the entire argument of SCOTUS vanishes.
  •  States can act too: California Governor Newsom isn’t the only sane governor.  Expect more to step up to make access become easier.
  •  Pack the courts.  Add 8 more justices, for a total of 17: 13 to match the existing Judicial Districts, and 4 At-Large.  Fight tooth and nail to get them installed, don’t settle for anything less than 13 total.  We have for the entirety of our Republic had courts packed with right-wing reactionaries who only on occasion did the right thing by the public.  Enough of that, it’s time for a court that is not in thrall to the rich and powerful.  Our Democratic Experiment demands it.
  •  “Two can play at this game.”  If the government is going to deny the right of Privacy to 1/2 the population, it’s time for the other half to know how that feels.  Mandatory vasectomies for any male under 30 years old.  Viagra is banned, even by prescription, unless under direct visual in person supervision of a doctor.  The user is not allowed to choose the doctor.

 

 

It may be too pessimistic to call this week’s events the last hurrah for democracy or the idea of self-governance.  But it is surely the Democratic Party’s last chance to do something or face oblivion.  We have waited 50 years for them to be anything other than milquetoast water carriers for the rich and powerful.  They have talked a good game but have not delivered since the New Deal 8 decades ago.  So yes, this next year is make or break for them. It’s time to accomplish the reversal of this intrusion into the privacy of hundreds of millions of citizens – – and doing so will be the bare minimum required to protect the Republic.

We know from the history of Weimar Germany and other places that this nascent Theocratic power grab can evolve rapidly into full-on Fascism, and so it’s easy to feel like this is America’s last chance to stop them.  All I can do is point out that most likely it’s not. Several times before, we faced this threat and defeated it… starting with those hate-filled goons with belt buckles on their hats who infected the soil of Plymouth Rock centuries ago.  The Declaration of Independence and our Constitution repudiated their delusions, just as all of England and Europe had done when they booted them in the first place.  The fact that 6 partisan hacks on the SCOTUS share those delusions is unfortunate, but it’s not one that cannot be overcome.  In very short order, we may well be exiling these Neo-Pilgrim goons too.

Now I’m passing the pen over to a dear friend, who can put this moment in a deeper context.  They are a lesbian who has been involved in this fight since the early 1980’s. “…let’s be clear, the white European heteronormative patriarchy is just doing what they do best…making their issues the problem of the oppressed.  Like racism, which they’ve made the problem of POCs, women having unregulated pleasure is a man’s problem and we should be targeting their reproductive “rights”.  But as someone who has never fit in for any number of reasons, I know for every one of them, there’s two of me and if you’re lucky, you can survive together while just being careful – of where you go and what you reveal.  Privacy is not a right, it’s a craft.” – anonymous commenter

So, it’s time to get in the streets, to gum up the works, and to force change via non-violent civil disobedience.  I’ve already begun, you know, because I went down to the demonstration, to get my fair share of abuse….

 

Roses.

America loves to think of itself as a rose, in bloom.  We trumpet our freedoms and strength as if they are bright red petals on a summer day.  It’s a damn shame though, that for most of the world, for 6 or 7 decades now, they look at us… and they only see the thorny stem.

It was merely August, 7 months ago, that I decried the pointless and fruitless war in Afghanistan.  It wasn’t ever necessary, was doomed to failure, and represented a complete failure by our leaders to learn any lessons from history.

I am a pacifist.  War is not the answer, and we’ve had 15,000 years to figure that out.  Over and over again old grudges birthed new conflicts.  So I decry this stupid war as well, the one Putin has started because he has nearly completed looting his home nation of Russia and now needs new lands to loot.  It is a pattern seen over and over again, so the fact that he is the most successful mob boss in the history of the world should not blind us to the fact he is also just another tinpot dictator flailing about in an effort to preserve his gains.

Those are points 1 and 2: war is bad, and this bum is pretty run of the mill.  Point 3 is less obvious, but the Ambassador from Kenya made it very well in his speech the other day: nurturing grudges from the past does no good, it’s better to look ahead and build a better future.  This is something that is still possible, even though it seems unlikely with tanks rolling into Ukraine.

Point 4: it’s shockingly hypocritical how we have chosen to ignore so many other conflicts because this one feels ‘closer to home’ for our politicians.  Syria has been mired in a water war for 8 years at least, too bad for them.  Yemen has been trying to throw off the yoke of their Saudi neighbors, but gosh darn it Mohammed Bone Saw is our ally; so you Yemeni’s get to die.  Gosh darn it.  But oh look, Europe has gotten it’s feathers ruffled because 20 years ago a bunch of venal politicians lied to each other and now tempers have flared about it.

Point 5: We must go back to my very first statement: learning from history is a MUST.  We failed to do so in our last 4 wars – – and pretty thoroughly lost them all.  We failed to do so at the beginning of WWII, when we chose to let Spain fall to the Fascists, namely to some guy named Franco.

Not all of us, natch.  Many Americans rightly saw the looming threat, and formed the Lincoln Brigade.  They fought and bled and died alongside the Republicans in Spain.  They lost, but they were on the right side of history.  And so it is with point #5… we need to be on the right side of history here.

For 9 decades, since fall of 1945, the entire planet has lived under the shadow of the mushroom cloud.  It has, to put it mildly, clouded our judgment.  Most folk have pretended since 1991 that the cloud had lifted, but of course nothing at all had changed.  And so now two very large armies are skirmishing in the winter mud outside of Kiev, and mothers across the planet are wondering how they will be able to shelter their children if fallout comes their way.

It’s unfortunate that the Russian people are going to be victimized just as the Ukraine’s people are.  They didn’t want war.  But they are trapped under his murderous sway, just as with Stalin and Lenin before him.

Pete Seeger told us that even pacifists should defend their home if it was invaded.  For years I wrestled with that, I told myself that pacifism means nothing if it is not absolute.  Fact is Seeger was right.  And Putin isn’t just invading Ukraine.  He is laying the groundwork for another time of soviet-style darkness for the whole world.

The rose that America deems itself to be cannot fail this time to prevent the rise of Putin-style Fascism.  It galls me to say it, but this time we must set aside points 1 through 4 because #5 outweighs them all.  This war was preventable, yet it is here, now.  We made a deal with Ukraine when they gave up their nukes, we promised to protect them.  Before all that we founded the United Nations and wrote the UN charter, which specifically demands action in defense of basic democracy and human rights.  For these reasons, and for the ideals that we clung to as we defeated Hitler, this madman must be stopped.  Don’t let Putin’s paid lackeys Carlson and Trump pull the wool over your eyes.  After all, they have labored for ages to undermine the ideals of freedom and democracy.

So it comes to this: it’s time for the thorns.

I’m appalled at myself to be calling for war.  So be it, the time for diplomacy came and went, regardless of how I felt about it.

I am a pacifist, though I never have been much of one.  My hope now is that the Allies act swiftly, and fully.  Don’t ‘half-ass’ it like we did in Viet nam, Iraq, etc.  Make a plan and commit to it.  Make plans not just for the battles but also for their aftermath.  And do it now.  There should not need to be a Lincoln Brigade stood up this time, governments should take the initiative.

The lessons of the Nuremberg trials were stark, and clear, and demanded that we never forget why that war was fought.  Once again a madman seeks to enslave the world, starting with his next door neighbor.  This time we need to rise against the threat, early enough to prevent a global catastrophe.


This version of “Morning Dew” features the song’s author, Bonnie Dobson.  It also has a calmness to it that I appreciate, as an older dude.  Of course it’s the most famous anti-nuke song of all time, it has been covered by just about everybody.  I first heard it done by Blackfoot, their version is a barn-burner.  Nazareth, too, tore the walls down with their cover.  But I’m old.  And tired, and this version sums it up best.  No war, no nukes.  The endgame is too horrifying to contemplate.


 

“Rather than form nations that looked ever backward into history with a dangerous nostalgia, we chose to look forward to a greatness none of our many nations and peoples had ever known,” Kimani said.

https://www.npr.org/2022/02/22/1082334172/kenya-security-council-russia?

 

https://truthout.org/articles/chomsky-outdated-us-cold-war-policy-worsens-ongoing-russia-ukraine-conflict/

 

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2022/02/ukraine-russia-invasion-putin-kyiv-interview.html

 

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/christopherm51/ukraine-bomb-shelters-russia-attack-kyiv

 

https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/44296/what-putins-options-in-ukraine-really-look-like

 

“People who place themselves in the camp of Vladimir Putin are not patriots, they aren’t America First, they aren’t Christians, and they aren’t pro-life.

They’re also not people who get to drape themselves in the flag, or invoke allegiance to this nation, or feign offense at kneeling football players, or spout some red, white, and blue nationalistic nonsense—because they never cared about any of it.” – John Pavlovitz

https://johnpavlovitz.com/2022/02/23/when-americans-support-murderous-foreign-dictators/?

Mea Culpa

Notes on 9-11, twenty years later.

This is the anniversary of a dark day in our country’s history.  It has also been totally eclipsed by the utterly horrifying death toll from a preventable virus.  So much so, that after this year I doubt anybody will be putting much emphasis on 9/11 anymore.  Too many folks are mourning their current lost loved ones to spend heaps of time on those of a generation ago.

I wanted to start this essay with “I told you so.”  It sure would have felt good, too; 20 years after warning y’all about the mistake of going to war to avenge a violent terror attack.  Who the hell would read that article though?  Nobody.

Nobody likes to be told they are wrong, least of all ‘Muricans.

We don’t.  We blew it on Viet Nam.  But then we spent the next two decades fellating ourselves with Rambo movies and Reagan and other such exciting fictions.  So when 9/11 occured, we were 100% ready and willing and able to make the same mistake again.  Then – – our short-attention span made it so that we turned away from the Afghan rebuilding project to double down and invade Iraq.  (I decried that invason too, to no avail).

We then whipped up some fancy ‘mission accomplished’ banners and photo ops, and… spent the next 19 years waiting to be greeted as liberators.  August of 2021 may have finally put that delusion to bed.  Somehow, I don’t think so.

I hate being Cassandra.  I do.  Nobody wants to hear the unvarnished truth, that much is clear.  But why?  How is it we would rather keep suffering, and keep on making other nations suffer; instead of doing the simple, basic work to fix the problems once and for all?  *This* question has become my life’s work.

There are solutions, by the way.  Never ever let anyone tell you these problems cannot be fixed.  Those folks are selling you something; and are not to be trusted.  We could never have built civilization in the first place, if we did not have solutions available for getting people to co-exist, within community.

So forget all about ‘I told you so’, and forget about who’s fault it is that we are in such a mess.  Focus your precious time on learning about solutions.  I have close to 20 essays up on mobilized.news now, and plenty of others have stuff posted here too.  That’s one possible place to start learning if you need resources.  For the busier or more skeptical among us, here (below) are some short takes that may be of use.

I am sorry that we’re still suffering.  Maybe I haven’t done enough to help relieve that suffering.  Maybe I can do more.  But it’s not about me, and it’s not about you.  It’s about the future. It really can be as bright as we want it to be.  Our biggest hurdle to overcome is simply inertia –  – and that’s a choice we make every day.

Simply change your mind, decide to find a new model to live within.  Better days lie ahead.


Further Reading: 

https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/welcoming-remarks-made-at-a-literary-reading-9-25-01?

 

Daniel Quinn shared this insight with us: Most folks would say that “the world was made for Man, and Man was made to conquer it.”  But of course that is just mythology, nothing about it is true.  It’s far more accurate to say that “the world is a sacred place and a sacred process – – and we are part of it.”  Our fundamental mis-understanding of how the world works is the key to knowing why we keep going on foolish crusades overseas, why we keep destroying the climate even though we know better, and so many other maladies.  It’s time to change those habits.

I often recommend this book, and do so again today because it’s more relevant NOW than ever before.  “Beyond Civilization” by Daniel Quinn.  See also: “Providence”, and the 3 “Ishmael” novels… which would make one hell of a great miniseries, if there are any TeeVee producers reading this post.

Speaking of ‘more relevant than ever’, Bucky Fuller’s classic book-length essay Grunch of Giants came out in 1970 for crying out loud; it’s too bad we’ve never taken his wise advice.

https://mobilized.news/bite-sized-book-reviews/

https://mobilized.news/bite-sized-book-reviews-ii-electric-boogaloo/

 

Here let us read in their own words, some post-war thoughts from a selection of unindicted war criminals.  They only barely register any remorse, and sure are twisting themselves in knots to justify their murderous idiocy.  NOTABLY ABSENT IN THESE INTERVIEWS: THE POINT OF VIEW OF ANYBODY AT ALL WHO WARNED AGAINST THE INVASIONS BEFORE HAND.  Such as Barbara Lee, Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, Medea Benjamin, or any of the Gold Star Mothers.  Funny how the media is falling over themselves to ask the guilty how they feel about being guilty.  It’s too damn bad the media doesn’t truly want to prevent future mistakes since that would be bad for their ratings.  Le sigh.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/09/10/9-11-attacks-20th-anniversary-reassessing-20-years-of-war-506924

For a more rational change of pace, this journalist ignored the fatuous glad-handers who lied us into war and instead talked to the soldiers on the ground.  If you’re in a hurry, skip the last entry and just read this one.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/09/10/politico-mag-afghan-vets-roundtable-506989

 

Here I offer a hat tip to my friend Alice Shikina, who has pointed me towards a far better means of conflict resolution – guided mediation & arbitration.  Groups such as SEEDS exist here in the Bay Area and similar ones are in most any big city near you.  We don’t have to spend our precious time being angry, or blaming the ‘other guy’.  We can instead work on listening and finding common ground.  There WAS common ground to be had with the Afghan people, for example, but we never once tried to find it.  We simply imposed a top-down model on them and then, were puzzled why they despised it.  What a huge missed opportunity.  Don’t you make that same mistake.  Check out the better options that are available and cost almost nothing to implement.

https://www.seedscrc.org/

www.cnvc.org

Chautauquas and Lyceums and TED Talks, oh my!

We are aiming with Mobilized to create a vibrant forum for ideas.  “Big deal”, you might say, there are already places for that.

Well, you’re not wrong.  There was, in the earliest days of the web, a loose and wild forum called The Well.  The great and powerful Google had as it’s mission the goal of “bringing all the knowledge of the world to every person”… before it pivoted to a new goal of just making money off of what it knows about us.  That change was a real pity.  There have been sites such as Wiser Earth, which aimed to be a global directory of people and non-profit organizations so that collaboration could happen on a larger scale than ever before.  It lasted about two years, sadly; not long enough to create a legacy.  Huffington Post had a good run in its’ early days, sharing ideas widely and helping to boost its’ contributors in the public’s mind.

What’s important to know, is that as of this writing, there is not really a widely recognized forum online or in ‘meat-space’.  There are print publications such as YES! magazine, Tikkun, The Sun Magazine, and The Utne Reader, all of which which reach a population of hundreds thousands.  Great, but their reach could be even more broad, in my humble opinion.  Within social media sites there are plenty of good ‘groups’ but they also don’t reach enough folks outside of their own memberships.

Probably the most popular comparable live events right now are the TED talks, which do serve a valuable purpose.  Sadly, they also tend toward the ‘Gee-Whiz‘ and the ‘Shiny New Buzzword‘ in their contents.  Mobilized really wants to focus on the proven, the existing, and the hidden.  There are already, all over, groups doing wonderful work, but too many of them are laboring in obscurity.

So, how do we do that?  Well to begin with, we’re not trying to be a technology startup.  There is no secret sauce, no fancy algorithm at work here.  Almost all the underlying code behind Mobilized is made with off-the-shelf parts, such as WordPress.  There is zero reason to re-invent the wheel, and frankly the notion that one must do so has tripped up several earlier attempts at building a successful progressive community.  We take the approach of using the tools at hand to build our house.

Secondly, we are going into the future with an eye firmly on the past.  And that leads us to the point of this essay, a look at how America became America.  We can take many lessons from the past.  One of our best ideas as a nation was the Chautauqua movement.   It had it’s heyday from the 1870’s right up until the beginning of World War II.  In part, it helped spawn a Lyceum movement, the Vaudeville traditions in the theater world; and had an effect on the earliest days of the motion-picture industry.  Here’s why it was so popular: the average person, anywhere in the land, could go to a Chautauqua when it came to their town, and engage in spirited discussion with the brightest minds of the day.  It was direct, person-to-person, and offered a mix of local and national ideas and people; presented on a rotating basis.  So ideas could be hashed out and spread rapidly.  And they did.  In no small part due to these two movements, the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age were defeated.  The Great Depression was tackled too, and along the way no less than Susan B. Anthony, Teddy Roosevelt and Mark Twain became huge fans.  No part of society could, or wanted to, ignore the notion that average people could teach other average people.

Mobilized aims to help bring that back into common understanding.  In the present era, there may well be a place for tents and lecturers setting up in farmer’s fields.  There certainly is a crying need for an educational platform that is accessible to the masses.  And now, there exist enough robust tools for us to re-create the ethos of a Chautauqua on the internet.

We, the people, when it really mattered and the stakes were high, collectively taught ourselves how to better ourselves.  Now, in every corner of the world, the stakes are once again pretty high.  It is time for a new Chautauqua movement, and this one will be truly global.  So step right up, come on inside our virtual tent.  Welcome to the show.

 

 

The Thirty-Years War.

The Big Picture: Middle school and high school history classes were weird.  It was very interesting stuff they taught, and I loved the coursework.  But none of it made sense.  Over and over again, they told us tales that made no sense – – by themselves.  How could it be, I wondered, that England and France would have a war that lasted for 30 years?  How could there have been a “100 year war”?  No one would have tolerated that, (I thought), so those books must be wrong.  

Turns out that they were right, just rushed to cram in facts.  All we were getting was the ‘Cliffs Notes’ versions of history.  Context was lacking because the system didn’t see the value of context.  Kind of ironic, given that the whole point of studying history was to avoid making the same mistakes… but that’s the ‘Murican way of educating: “buy bulk and save”!  No other criteria matters.

Le sigh.  Luckily for me, in time I did get enough book-learnin’ in to understand the hidden patterns.  So I was able to tease out the back stories, and history became less mysterious.  It also helps comprehension, I suppose, seeing that we are once again failing utterly to learn any lessons from the past.  We are right now blundering along.  Such a pity.  

 

For The Record: What do I mean?  Well, these past few weeks the media has fallen over itself lamenting the nearly 20 years our soldiers have been mucking about in Afghanistan.  As if it’s our “longest war ever”, as if ‘Murica gosh darn it just couldn’t help itself.  As if, this wasn’t our practice going back decades.  Don’t believe the hype.  One need only look to Iraq, which we first invaded in 1991.  That is… wait for it… a Thirty Years War!  We are still there, we have chosen to tolerate it all this time, and we have no plans to depart.  Suddenly, those Frenchies don’t look so odd anymore.  And we are far from alone in these bad habits.  The Brits have been fighting in Afghanistan, off and on, since 1839.  

And truly it is our habit, our main way of being.  Look at the Philippines – war broke out there in the 1880’s.  With the exception of WWII when it was held by the Japanese, we have been fighting there continuously ever since.  That’s well over 100 years now, with no end in sight.  Oh sure, you might quibble because nowadays we call it “the war on drugs” and declare that we are taking out terrorists who grow bad plants.  But ask any of the locals doing the fighting up in the hills, and they stake out the exact same revolutionary positions as their ancestors of the 1890’s.  Speaking of the Japanese, notice anything about them?  We still have military bases there, just as we do in Germany.  Again, you might quibble that now we’re all happy allies and friends…  I will simply note that it’s 9 decades since WWII ended.  If we are such good buddies, why don’t we trust them enough to leave their front porch?  This institutionalized violence has become so totally normalized and accepted that the media doesn’t even think to comment upon it.  

Which brings us to the point of the essay, our war here at home.  It has gone on without pause since the founding of the Republic.  I’m talking now of the war our police are waging on the self-same citizens of the land, those who are not rich or light skinned.  Britain, (and every nation since), went into Afghanistan to control the drugs grown there.  We have in 20 years there vastly increased crop yields for the poppies that become heroin – – 26 times more land is under cultivation now than in 2001.  Mission accomplished, indeed.  

But here, in the ‘homeland’, the war is fought differently.  In order to combat drugs, the big evil bogeyman “DRUGS”; damn near every cop sees crime on every corner.  Got an air freshener in your car?  You must be a criminal mastermind, you have to die.  Selling loose cigarettes?  Drug lord!  No more breathing for you.  Sleeping in your own apartment at night?  Enjoy your no-knock warrant as we murder your girlfriend, you wanna-be Tony Montana.  

We have a thirty-years-war going on right under our noses, you see.  And it’s being fought largely by the same people.  Most cops nowadays are ex-military.  They were surely messed up by tours in Iraq, etc. where the locals really did want to kill them – – and would try every chance they got.  It’s no wonder they see citizens as direct threats, instead of seeing them as the very people they are supposed to be serving and protecting.  It’s no wonder they are so trigger happy, even after being taught de-escalation techniques.  They do use those skills, somewhat, and that’s a good start.  Unfortunately, they only seem to choose to do that with white people who are storming our Capitol building.  “Oh, you’re here to murder the Vice President and members of the Congress?  Well here let me literally hold the door open for you, white person!  And yes, sure, let’s pose for selfies while we’re at it!!”  

Enough.  

Hurt people hurt people.  It’s high time we learned this lesson, and stopped producing wounded people in bulk.  We need justice for George, and Breanna, and now Daunte.  AND we need justice for the ones who will be along after us. Fewer wars will yield fewer warriors, and maybe we can break this cycle of misplaced violence.  We will all be so much better off, if we can do this.  It’s not going to be easy.  But it can be done, and step one will be for you to demand our leaders stop waging endless wars in our name.  You can do that, and you can do that today.  

 

 


Your Musical Selection: Killing in the Name, by Rage Against the Machine.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWXazVhlyxQ


What they are saying: 

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/apr/16/20-years-western-intervention-afghanistan-terror

“She was on the force longer than Daunte was alive. So I don’t know how you mistake one for the other. But let’s go back even further. Let’s say she actually thought it was a Taser. Let’s, in some freakish, strange, upside-down, Stranger Things world—let’s give her the benefit of the doubt. Why is she grabbing for that anyway? You’re out in suburban Minnesota. You’ll catch this man if you need to find him. There’s really nowhere to go. You got the license plates. The question is why did she feel the need to go for any weapon. For air fresheners? Why is that even the move? Regardless of what we think if it’s an accident or not, she shouldn’t have had her hand on anything, and you can see the look on the Black officer’s face afterwards in the bodycam. Like, “What the f**k are you doing?” I want to know what he thinks, without the protection of the blue line. So, no, I don’t believe her. I don’t think it was an accident.”   https://slate.com/comments/news-and-politics/2021/04/minneapolis-police-shooting-daunte-wright-protest-goals.html

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/apr/16/us-police-officers-public-officials-crowdfunding-website-data-breach

“I don’t want my country to be one where cops get to riot like they did at Lafayette Park or where cops get to blindly shoot into a home and kill the innocent occupants or assassinate a man even if he is accused of murder. I want my country to be the country they told me it was in elementary school.”  https://news.yahoo.com/police-antifa-activist-likely-shot-141049945.html?

https://news.avclub.com/trevor-noah-has-the-talk-with-viewers-about-police-viol-1846697013

Back to the future II – Biff’s revenge

The Choice Is Ours

The Big Picture: Most folks have seen the trilogy of movies called “Back to the Future.”  For those who are too young, or simply have not, a brief recap is in order: in the first movie, a boy named Marty and his scientist friend build a time machine, go back from the 1980’s to the 1950’s… and make a mess.  Then they fix it and save the world; in a comical manner.  In the second movie though, the bully named Biff steals their time machine and wrecks the place.  Instead of a quiet small town, suddenly there is only a horrifying mega-casino named Biff’s Pleasure Palace; for instance.  Luckily, Marty and Doc save the world, again, as is the way of Hollywood movies.

Today’s essay is all about how we have come to find ourselves, our entire society, trapped within Biff’s Pleasure Palace.

For the Record:  Well, we also have to talk about the “Mad Max” movies, I suppose.  In order to put these stories in context, (and compare them to so many which are similar), we need to take a moment to look at why they have become so popular and captured imaginations for decades.

 

 

 

Uh oh, there goes the neighborhood.

I have made a point of re-watching these films, and several other dystopian classics such as “Fight Club”, in preparation for this essay.  They each tell seductive tales of rugged individuals who rise above the mud and the muck to become heroes.  On the surface, hey, that’s great.  Who doesn’t love a Hero’s Tale?

Problem is, they miss a very large point.  Two or three, really, but to keep this short let’s look only at this one: Society is not doomed.  It’s just not.  We know this, simply, because of the fact that we are here!  Civilization has waxed and waned over the last 42,000 years, but the long arc is a straight line upwards.  Everywhere, in every way, folks have made the exact same decision over and over again: work together, and build together.  No matter how hard the right wingers wish for it, no matter how often mass media pumps the message into your eyes and ears, it just isn’t true that we’re moments away from eating Zombies or having to grow Mowhawk hairstyles with torn leather jackets and uncomfortable boots.

The truth is much more boring, sedate, and comforting.  We are moments away from PTA meetings, from city council meetings, from charity food drives.  These are the things that people choose to do, again and again, in times of duress.  Doesn’t make for a heart-pounding action movie, doesn’t make for a 12 point front-page headline; but it sure is what goes on regardless.  “Survival of the Fittest” is a myth, has always been a myth, and you should be very skeptical of anyone who tries to tell you that it’s a law.  Ask them why they are peddling this and what they stand to gain from having you believe this lie.  Cooperation is the real name of the game.  Thousands of years ago, there were literally thousands of models for this, in every nook and cranny of the planet.  After 15,000 years of myth-making, and conquest by the stupid over the compassionate, we’re now down to only a handful of models for living.  That’s a damn shame, but it’s not at all inevitable that we have to keep enacting these gloomy scenarios.  In fact, because the Cooperative models worked just fine for generations, and needed little external support, they are far more likely to prevail.  Because the dour models such as Capitalism, Fascism, and Socialism are only possible with massive external props and supports.  And it is obvious now that most folks are tired of blindly propping up these models.

What they are lacking are better stories, better models to enact.  I’ve provided pointers in other essays, to writers who can offer such ideas.  My job now is to keep doing that in the near future.

 


 

What they’re saying: Well, they’re saying “Live Long and Prosper”.  But also, this:

 

Next Steps:  We could have fallen into permanent dystopia’s many times; such as just after World War I.  Some parts of the planet began to actively do so, that was avoided at great cost.  Some parts of the present world are still under the thrall of warlords and tyrants.  Hell, my home country the USA elected Biff to the highest office in the land for 4 very long years.  Then we put things right, and began the process of improving things for everyone.  You can do this too.  I don’t promise it will be rapid or even easy.  But I can promise you that with the right story to tell, you can perform staggeringly large feats.

There is a time and a place for everything.  We’ve had more than enough gloom and doom, have rewarded the doomsayers for plenty long enough.  Time now to uplift the Optimists, instead.  To become one.  Here are some, maybe right near you.  They are far from alone, and neither are you.

 

 

 

Caution is the Watchword

A collection of faces. These folks attempted to overthrow the US Government in 2021.

The Big Picture: This is your reminder that the Fascists are still out there.  I dislike having to keep writing about politics, but we’re not out of the woods yet.  As a kid I dearly wanted a pony, never got one.  As an adult I can see that was a good thing, my folks saved me from shoveling a lot of poop.  So, maybe it’s ok that I have to keep shoveling facts out the door.  Maybe doing so will help us get to the goal faster, because we can better fertilize the ground for the better society to come. 

It’s good that Donny and his goon squad are being levered out of offices they never were qualified for, here in America.  But this cancer will persist if we do not excise it completely from the land.  And of course many nations are still in its’ grip.

For The Record: Bear in mind that in Germany after WWI, the far right used a ‘Big Lie’ to get back into power.  It was a lie, but they kept repeating it for so long, that it crowded out the truth.  They said that Jews had “stabbed them in the back” and that was why the war had been lost.   “Stop the Steal” is the 21st century equivalent of “stabbed in the back”.   None of it is true, but it’s very useful to those who covet power and control.  So you must in your communities take it on at every turn, denounce it, and share honest facts in its place.  This is one place where the Truth really will set us free.  Your mission in the coming years is to vocally oppose any such lies, as best you can. 


Your Musical Selection: Well, this week it’s John Prine, RIP.  Another great songwriter who was lost to the Covid pandemic.  “Your flag decal (wont get you into heaven anymore)”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlofnxJxMIQ


Go deeper – links and sources: “An extraordinary element of the investigation into the attack on the Capitol is the sheer number of people who announced what they were going to do, broadcast when they did it, and, in some cases, proudly took credit for it.”  https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/01/this-site-posted-every-face-from-parlers-capitol-hill-insurrection-videos/

“In 2021 a college student has the skills and resources to run an ID campaign at such a scale and efficiency that would have only been a fever dream in the eyes of three letter agencies in the past.”

“…the data was publicly available and intended for download. The perps and instigators are just pissed because their behavior has made it possible to assemble it all in one place and prove collusion and participation. That’s the fault of those who posted the data, not of those who downloaded it. Download was the intent of those who uploaded it all along. They wanted as many others as possible to see what they had done; they were bragging about it.”  https://projects.propublica.org/parler-capitol-videos/?

“I’m wary of the big brother culture that facial recognition has the potential to create. But when criminals post pictures of themselves actively committing a crime to a public forum, using basic tools to make those images more searchable doesn’t bother me a bit. These people deserve what they get, and more importantly those thinking of doing it tomorrow need the warning – “society doesn’t approve of your bulls**t!”  https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/20/fbi-evidence-capitol-insurrection-plan-460836

“The evidence presents in stark terms that many of former president Donald Trump’s supporters understood his overtures to come to the Capitol and “stop the steal” to be a call to violence. It dispels the damage control by some on the far right who lied that the rioters were leftists in disguise, and it reveals the destructive consequences of a four-year barrage of anti-government rhetoric and the encouragement of conspiracy theories by Trump and his allies.”  https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/zoetillman/captiol-rioters-charged-social-media-posts-violence

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/venessawong/trumps-movement-not-economic-anxiety

https://m.dailykos.com/stories/2021/1/22/2011148/-Trump-campaign-initiated-and-funded-Jan-6-rally-using-a-network-of-shell-companies?

https://billmoyers.com/story/insurrection-timeline-first-the-coup-and-then-the-cover-up-updated/?

Also, watch out for: Ye Olde Backlash.  Of course, now that the NeoLiberals are in power, The Man will now crack down on leftists and BLM folks.  Le sigh.  You have a voice, never forget to use it.  

Everyone has a plan

What They’re Saying:

“Everyone has a plan; until they get punched in the face.” – Mike Tyson.

The Big Picture:

Yet these treason weasels (and the police enablers who literally let them into the Capitol) building had no plan.

They had no plan.  They had only rage.  Inchoate rage.  And they were used as patsys by Donald Trump and his henchmen.  It is they who will now be crucified, while likely the true ringleaders might escape scot-free.

Oh sure, they had evil intents: we know that some had hefty weapons, handcuffs, etc… so if possible they surely would have taken hostages and killed a few.  But that’s not a plan, that’s wish-fulfillment.

For The Record:

Let’s talk about hostages, and rage, and such matters.  I do not often discuss the fact that as a 10 year old boy my family and I were forced to flee the city of Isfahan, Iran because the revolution came to our city.  Am from small-town Ohio, but we were there due to my father’s job-posting.

I saw inchoate rage, up close and personal.  In hindsight, I now know we left at a time when things had not yet gotten ‘very bad’.  Even so, there was chaos, people being shot down like dogs in the street, massive throngs of people battling overmatched cops.  You might say that it made a lasting impression on me, that day when I realized that every single thing I took for granted was instantly gone.  School teachers were suddenly powerless.  Parents and other grownups too were removed from their perch of authority and forced to become like everyone else: a scared little mortal running for their lives.  The vehicle we escaped in was just our plain old ordinary school bus, but someone had clumsily and hastily ‘up-armored’ it with sheet metal and slits for windows.  As an adult, I look back and realize that A) that effort was probably totally useless, and B) I guess I lived out “Mad Max”; a few years early.

Back to the present moment: on Jan. 6th my reaction was not surprise, not fear, it was “Oh; not this sh** again…..”  You see, the vast majority of Revolutionaries in late 1970’s Iran did not in any way desire for a theocratic government, led by sociopathic bearded old dudes in robes.  Far from it – they were trying to toss out an evil tyrant, and get themselves some democracy.  And so they spread rage, and rage was a useful tool to bring down the ‘old guard’.  Eventually hostages were taken at the US Embassy, and you likely know that the crisis took more than a year to get peacefully resolved.

For most Americans, the story ends right there.  Put a bow on it, our folks came home.  But go do some reading, because of course the story wasn’t over back in Iran.  Almost without exception, the leaders of the revolution who sought justice and democracy were very surprised to find themselves put up against a wall and shot by the Ayatollahs, the folks who swept in at the end and hijacked the entire revolution.  Those b*stards are still in power, much to the dismay of the general population.  The point: All those folks who used Rage as a tool were patsys.  Useful idiots, and expendable.

So it is with the “Meal Team Six” traitors who tried their hardest to prevent the peaceful transition of power.  Only because they were so stupid and inept did they fail.  Only because they never had a plan.  Not because our vaunted military was on the job.  Not because our President was feeling especially bound by his oath of office that day.  Now, once again, as with the common folks in Iran who got ground into dust, as with Lee Harvey Oswald, as with Lenin and Stalin’s many victims, and so many other useful idiots over the past few thousand years, they are chum in the water, so that the real instigators can go merrily on.

Not this time.  We have a constitution, it was damn near gang-raped this week.  It’s time for the true ringleaders to pay.  We know their names, we know their addresses.  One, obviously, resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  Start there.

Your musical selection this week was a toughie.  No surprise, eh?  Runner up was Black Sabbath’s “The Mob Rules”; but in the end, we have to hand this one to the hippies.  Because, ‘we’d all like to see the plan’


#childrenofliberty
“Ceterum censeo, delenda est Trumpo” (In conclusion, Trump must be removed.)

Table Stakes (And the Big Picture)

The Big Picture:  So many obstacles exist to true progress that most days many activists I know want to bang their head against a wall, or give up, or worse.  But it’s not so bad as all that, and in fact we have some advantages that were not even options for change-makers of generations ago.  Let’s begin by running some ‘cocktail napkin’ numbers, to make sense of the last few months in politics.

  • There are at least 330 million Americans right now.  Of those, ⅔ were able to vote in 2020.  That’s @218 million potential voters.
  • We had @144 million actual voters in the 2020 fall election.
  • Of those voters, @72 million chose Trump.
  • So here’s the real math: 2/3 of the total population of America can vote.  Of those, only 2/3 did vote in 2020.  Of those, 1/2 voted for Trump.  So that’s actually only about 20% of the whole who support him and his nefarious views.  That makes our job far easier – there are not nearly as many ‘hearts and minds’ we need to reach in this nation, as it may appear on the surface. 

For the Record: As noted in previous essays, there are always obstacles, and there are never enough dedicated folks, seemingly, to get the job done.  Yet over and over throughout the last 15,000 years, change has come to societies and the long arc has actually been in a direction of more justice, more fairness, and less oppression.  So clearly we simply need to keep on doing our work, and fret less about the long term.

Our mass media has done a bang-up job of making nearly everyone feel isolated, powerless, and flawed.  These are of course lies, and you should go right ahead and ignore the mass media.  The problems we face are merely the ‘table stakes’, and we can surely play our hand into a winning one.  We surely do NOT have to overcome half of the entire population wanting to calcify society as it was in the 1950’s.  Far from it.  But don’t take it from me, let’s go to one of our great recent philosophers…

What they’re saying: “One of the basic ideas of our culture is that people are fundamentally no good, that people are greedy, cruel, and vicious to the core: That is our nature, so get used to if, folks.  Get as much as you can, then get really good locks for your doors.  

I want to change that basic attitude.  Not only is the world a sacred place, but we belong in it.  We’re not alien monsters here.  We should stop perceiving ourselves in that way and begin to reevaluate our place in the greater community.  The view of this culture is that we are vicious beings, but still infinitely better than every other creature on this planet.  They are worthless beings we can kill off at will. 

I’m proposing that we all belong to a community of life.  We are no better or worse than other creatures.  We have to begin to think of ourselves as members of the world community, rather than as rulers of the planet.” – Daniel Quinn, interviewed by W. Bradford Swift in The Sun Magazine, December 1997 

Next steps: There is a shift coming.  I once thought it would be in a far distant future, but now I see that folks are agitating for it in nearly every city on the planet.  Reactionary leaders, cowed by fear and distaste for sharing their imaginary power, are doing rather a lot to crush / co-opt / belittle these forces.  That’s a pity but also should be encouraging to you – the fact that they can no longer ignore these efforts is in itself a telling victory for the progressives.  The shift can happen soon, within a generation or less, if we press our advantage. 

 


Go deeper: links and sources

Elsewhere on this site, I have posted many book reviews and other links, naturally I encourage you to study them in your free time.  

I do get a bit of heat since most of those recommendations are from the 20th century.  Well in fact I do keep current, it’s merely that I’m trying to work in order, and there is much to share.  However, this book is allowed to jump the line: Soft Landing, by Don Shepherd.  (2020, published by SaveTheWorld, Inc.)

Soft Landing lays out 3 major ways we can tell when the shift will have truly occurred – If we have succeeded in providing for the basic needs of every person on the planet, if we have stopped cutting down our forests and destroying the planet’s ecosystems, and if we have reversed our polluting ways.  In clear and amiable ways, he goes into some detail for doing so.  As well, (much ignored but crucial to overcoming our obstacles), the last ⅓ of the book goes into the current mess of our planet-wide financial system, and how we can ‘un-rig’ it in a reasonable time frame.  I do believe it is as if this fellow read his Quinn, Derrick Jensen and his Naomi Klein texts, and tried mightily to synthesize a readable and accessible version that won’t scare away the curious and the motivated-but-uneducated.  In that, I feel he has succeeded.  

And if you will indulge me, here’s another from that distant time of 2001… After Dachau by Daniel Quinn, (Context Books).  Since I quoted him above, it seems okay to mention one of his fiction tales.  In it, we see how life would be if society had indeed calcified in about 1956, and also no other cultures were allowed to exist.  Spoiler alert – it’s not pretty.  Also, it doesn’t get to be the last word.  As he always did in his fiction and non fiction works, the seeds of hope sprouted against the greatest odds.  We too, are about to see those seeds sprouting.  

Finally, we go out on a high note: the incomparable singer John McCutcheon and his story song “Well may the world go.”  Enjoy.  

“It’s not about eliminating anyone, it’s about welcoming people in!”

 

Pop Culture

It is not much of a confession to admit I am a huge Sci-Fi nerd, always have been.  A date once compared my apartment to a bookstore; that was not said charitably.  Don’t care.  I read Sci Fi and similar books because at bottom of it all, they are really not about science.  They are Anthropology, they are really Sociology.  They cover the biggest question of all: What If?

What if we built our society this way?  What if we didn’t make X mistake?  So many possibilities, all worked out for the reader.  

Many days it can feel like the whole dang planet has taken crazy pills; is determined to only create a dystopia worse than what Orwell predicted.  But I am comforted, because I know that we do still have so many other possibilities. We have a vast array of choices, and are smart enough to make them in time.  

Let’s take a glance at some relevant Pop Culture and Sci Fi media.  No way, no how is this list complete; or even comprehensive.  But it may offer you some solace and perspective; will certainly offer you some fun.  That’s in short supply these days.


We start with BSG, the TV show that inspired this post.  Battlestar Galactica has everything!  There is a plague, a rigged election, a villain who thinks that *they* are the victim, questionable tactics justified by larger goals, a wily opponent weaker than they appear… so many parallels to our modern situation.  Those who liked it in 2004 should re-watch it. 

The show’s ending was even more controversial than last summer’s Game of Thrones finale.  I argue that those who hated it should re-evaluate it, in light of how prescient it was about current events.  Every single episode is a meditation on Integrity and Honor; something I completely missed when it was first broadcast. We see, from several angles, what happens when ‘doing the right thing’ can lead to compromising one’s morals. Also, how those poor choices can be a path that leads People far astray from their goals. Luckily since it’s just fiction, nobody had to die for real to work out these big ideas and questions. 

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2020/sep/04/battlestar-galactica-all-hail-a-cult-classic-of-21st-century-tv

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“Hindsight is 20/20; 2020 is hindquarters.”  Most of the US west coast, and especially here in the SF Bay Area, has been blanketed by smoke for weeks.  And this is the 4th year in a row we have been beset by large fires.  Which makes the setting of Blade Runner 2049 about 21 years early, IMHO.  At least, we can say that based on how the movie looked.  I don’t actually know that last year we had any attack ships on fire near the Shoulder of Orion; but maybe I just wasn’t paying attention to current events.  

https://news.avclub.com/people-are-coping-with-the-nightmare-of-the-west-coasts-1845011980


 


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“Everyone was so shocked and panicky.  No one knew what was ahead.” – Dorothea Lange  

She was likely the greatest photographer working during the Depression, and we are lucky that most of her work survives to this day.  It can teach so much; could not be more relevant to the present crisis.

https://dorothealange.museumca.org/section/depression/

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The Avengers.  Always, always, I have to point that we are not the endgame!  It’s a catchy idea, a fun movie premise.  But history tells us otherwise (and I’ll detail all that in a future post).  OTOH, pop culture has surfaced some relevant Memes lately, so I’m including it in our list.

https://boingboing.net/2020/08/30/colberts-spot-on-america.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/investor/2020/09/03/the-crash-of-2020-into-the-end-game/#e603334715d4

…and while I will promote a Marvel story, I’m also obliged to remind folks how evil Disney is…  https://youtu.be/k3ynRXi7N7I 

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2020 would not be complete without a nod to The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood.  Because it should be obvious that turning our great land into the theocratic dystopia of Gideon is a major priority for most of the Henchmen around Donald and his scary wife.  

Meh…  red is not my color.

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https://www.cracked.com/pictofacts-1828-dr.-seuss-anti-fascist-cartoons/

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Earth Abides is a 1949 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by American writer George R. Stewart. It tells the story of the fall of civilization from deadly disease and its rebirth. The story was set in the United States in the 1940s in Berkeley, California and told by a character, Isherwood Williams, who emerges from isolation in the mountains to find almost everyone dead.”

The Fifth Sacred Thing is a 1990’s-era novel by the writer Starhawk.  Set largely in San Francisco after the fall of the US Government, it shows both dystopic and utopic possibilities and compares them against our actual reality.  There is intrigue, folks living in peace without cops or even much of a government, a barren Los Angeles wasteland (of course), and lots and lots of bees.  

Let us not forget the PERN series of novels, by Anne McCafferey.  I mentioned in an earlier post about how these are about a plucky teen saving the world from a horrible virus, using Dragons.  Timely stuff.  But it bears mention that their entire society is run by the musicians.  They are the leaders and decision-makers because they are seen as the most wise.  An entire planet, a space-faring society, led by artists.  How about that??!

A Door into Ocean, by Joan Slonczewski, is my favorite Sci Fi novel; by a large margin.  It is nothing less than “Quakers In Space”.  That is: there are super militaries, there are wondrous technologies, far away places…. all the things that Sci Fi trades in, but instead of the same-old same-old shoot ‘em up battles, the reader gets to see how it would play out if implacable foes go right up to the brink of disaster, and then work it out instead.  AND THAT CHOICE IS EVEN MORE SATISFYING AND FUN THAN BLOWING EVERYTHING ALL TO HELL.  No small feat of storytelling, let me tell you.  (It’s also the sci fi novel that James Cameron stole the most from; for his silly Avatar movie, but that’s a tale for another day).

These ‘alt-future’ tales collectively bring us to Costner-damus, of course.  That is, we in 2020 see the actor Kevin Costner now as some kind of modern Nostradamus soothsayer.  His films, Waterworld and The Postman, were reviled and mocked in their own time.  But look at either one’s synopsis today, and you can easily see that he read the tea leaves accurately.  A mailman helps restore faith in the US government?  A good swimmer saves humanity after global warming nearly drowns everybody?  Get outta town, Costner-damus!  He was spot on, dude.

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https://boingboing.net/2020/08/26/a-disaster-bingo-card-for-the.html

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Of course, we have to wrap this essay up with Star Trek.  In all its forms, the franchise has become so large that it’s almost a parody of itself.  There are in fact at least 2 excellent parodies: Galaxy Quest and The Orville.  But for the moment, please put all that baggage aside.  The core idea of the Star Trek franchise is simple and optimistic: We Can Do It.  We can overcome our biases, our fears, and our hatreds.  People criticize the show because it’s a “post-scarcity society”; therefore we could never be like them.  But that only shows their ignorance – we have been a “post-scarcity society” as a planet since at least 1970!  We simply mis-allocate resources, hoard them, and force people to suffer due to unfounded fears and greed.  But there’s no need to do that anymore.  We Can Do It.

https://www.cracked.com/article_28489_E28098star-trekE28099-warned-us-that-2020s-would-suck.html


“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown– only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.” – Captain Kirk

 

 

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